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Graduates Get Right Down to Work

With Jobs Picture Bright, Members of the Class of 2019 Share First Steps on Career Paths

A UMass Lowell graduate takes a selfie outside the Tsongas Center with his family Photo by Ed Brennen

By Ed Brennen

It’s a good time for UMass Lowell graduates to be entering the workforce.

The U.S. unemployment rate was at 3.6 percent in April, its lowest mark in 50 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since peaking at an even 10 percent in October 2009 following the recession, unemployment has declined steadily over the past decade.

The jobs picture is even better in Massachusetts, where the unemployment rate in April was 2.9 percent, the ninth lowest of the 50 states. For River Hawks, the future looks especially bright. Within six months of last year’s graduation, 96 percent of the class of 2018 was either working or enrolled in graduate school.

As the university’s 4,534 graduates prepared to march into the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell for their Commencement exercises, we checked in with a handful of River Hawks to see where they were headed on their career paths.

Headshot of Dayer Acosta in a cap in gown outside the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

Electrical engineering grad DAYER ACOSTA of Methuen starts work in June at Odin, Inc., a point-of-sale solutions provider for educational institutions. The company is based in Cambridge but Acosta will be working in Tewksbury. “It’s a blessing,” says Acosta, who’s the first in his family to graduate from college. “It was hard work, but it was worth it.” A commuter who held down a retail job while in school, Acosta wasn’t able to do a co-op. But he networked on his own and learned about the electrical engineering opportunity at Odin while talking to a customer at work. “It was crazy. We exchanged contact info, and a few weeks ago he texted me asking if I’d had any job offers,” Acosta says. “I sent my résumé and that’s all she wrote.” “I’m just thankful that I got a job,” he adds. “I know it can be hard sometimes right out of college.”

Headshot of Jeanine Buonopane in a cap in gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

Well before she completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration, JEANINE BUONOPANE of Burlington was lining up her career options. Last summer, Buonopane landed an internship at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, providing administrative assistance to military members and their families. Buonopane, who was born with cerebral palsy, got the internship through resources provided by the Career & Co-op Center for students with disabilities. When the internship ended last September, Buonopane was asked to stay on full-time as a career development technician, essentially serving as a passport agent for personnel going overseas. “It was tough to balance with school work, but I figured it out,” says Buonopane, whose concentration was in accounting. “It feels nice not to worry about finding a job. I hope to be there for a long time.”

Headshot of Ian Connell in a graduation gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

IAN CONNELL of Norfolk didn’t need to look for a job while wrapping up a bachelor of science in information technology through the Division of Online and Continuing Education; he already had an IT position with the town of Franklin. “I work full time and have a family, so I liked the flexibility of doing my degree online,” says Connell, who found that UML was one of the only schools in the area to offer an online IT degree. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if wasn’t online.” Connell, who got an associate degree in IT from Bunker Hill Community College, is confident his UML degree will enable future career advancement. “It will help me at some point, I’m sure,” he says.

Headshot of Lindsay Barrios in a cap in gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

LINDSAY BARRIOS of Lynn was hired as a social worker at HopeWell Inc., a foster care provider based in Dedham, after completing her bachelor’s degree in public health at UML in 2017. Through the accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s program, Barrios earned her master’s in public health this spring. “When I graduated two years ago, I found a job within two weeks,” Barrios says. “They said there’s room for growth, so I’m hoping that will happen. I feel good. I feel prepared.” And she may not be done with school just yet. “I feel like I’ve come this far,” she says. “Maybe I should go for my doctorate.”

Headshot of George Le in a cap in gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

Computer science graduate GEORGE LE of Methuen says he’s evaluating a few different job offers right now, but he’s going to give it a few weeks before deciding the best fit. “I’m taking a month off to decompress and sleep,” says Le, who plans on working for a while before returning to school for his master’s degree. Le worked as an intern at Techstars Boston, a startup accelerator program, while in school. He’s confident the experience has prepared him for whatever path he takes. “That really helped me for the future,” he says.

Headshot of Kendra Cervantes in a cap in gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

KENDRA CERVANTES of Whittier, Calif., started work as an optometry technician in Westford on May 2 – two weeks before picking up her bachelor of science in public health. “It feels great to have a very good job already,” says Cervantes, who felt better prepared professionally thanks to an internship she had while in school. “It was a great experience here,” Cervantes says. “The school prepared me well.”

Headshot of Matthew Ferris in a cap in gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

Originally a chemical engineering major, MATTHEW FERRIS of Norwood changed course and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He’s now busy sifting through job options that combine his two interests: technical writing. “Not a lot of people think of tech writing as a career choice, but there are a lot of startup job openings,” Ferris says. “Companies are grabbing up all the college students that they can.” Through his coursework, Ferris gained experience at several nonprofits in Lowell, including Girls Inc. and the Tsongas Industrial History Center. “It’s always nice to help out a company that does good work, and it was a great résumé-builder,” says Ferris, who chose UMass Lowell because of its affordability. While tech writing is his current goal, Ferris plans to eventually attend law school and go into patent law.

Headshot of Sean Flaherty in a cap in gown outside of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at Commencement 2019

Business administration graduate SEAN FLAHERTY of Lowell landed his “dream job” in corporate finance with Xylem Inc., a water sustainability company based in Rye Brook, N.Y. Flaherty was accepted to the company’s new finance leadership development program. Of 180 applicants, he was one of four to be accepted. “I wanted to work in environmental or green energy, and I wanted to do the development program to really learn what section of corporate finance I match with,” says Flaherty, who hopes to transition into a full-time role with the company after the two-year development program is complete. “I’m super-excited.” Flaherty was one of only two Manning School of Business students to graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, earning a Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Academic Achievement.