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Graduating Prepared to Succeed

CHASS alumna Morgan Donnelly (’10) says the willingness of NC State professors to mentor  students helps strengthen character traits that job recruiters find attractive.

NC State and other large state universities scored highest with job recruiters looking to hire the best trained and well prepared graduates to fill vacancies in the job market,  according to a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal.

When the survey findings were announced in 2010, NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said the story was “a testament to the real-world learning that takes place at great universities like NC State. Our students learn practical skills while maintaining a well-rounded approach to serving their state, their country, and the world, placing them among the nation’s most prepared university graduates.”

NC State ranked 19th overall by recruiters for some of the largest public and private corporations, nonprofits and federal agencies in the nation. Schools had to have a minimum of 60 companies who recruited at the institution to be considered for inclusion – in the final rankings, NC State finished ahead of UNC, Duke, Notre Dame and MIT, among others.

“NC State is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best values in higher education, but this ranking is different,” said Dr. Louis Hunt, vice provost and university registrar at NC State. “This ranking encompasses the entire educational process – it acknowledges the quality of our faculty and students as well as the excellence and appropriateness of our curriculum.”

The university’s reputation in the workplace came as no surprise to CHASS alumna Morgan Donnelly (Political Science and Communication ’10), who works as a digital journalist/reporter with NBC affiliate WSLS 10 in Roanoke, Virginia. After being told by a number of future broadcast colleagues that it could take up to a year to land a solid position, Donnelly was offered two jobs on the same day less than a month after she graduated – a credit not only to her efforts, but also those of NC State faculty and staff in helping Donnelly prepare to succeed beyond the borders of campus.

“NC State professors have so much experience in their fields and they offer a wealth of interesting classes that are simply not offered elsewhere,” she said. “They get to know us as students, push us to succeed and show confidence in our abilities – all of which help us learn as much as we can. That, in itself, makes us more desirable for jobs.”

Donnelly’s study abroad and research experiences, as well as the job-preparedness skills she gained at NC State, gave prospective employers additional insight into her potential as a new hire.  Thanks to a pair of unique internship classes (designed in part to offer students regular critique and evaluations), Donnelly hit the interview circuit with an increased confidence and a solid portfolio to show her future bosses.

“When I applied I had a website, a portfolio, a DVD and a cover-letter template – all of which were made for a class,” she said. “Thanks to a lot of hard work and the tools NC State helped provide, I was ready. I think it really helped me stand out.”

Internships are more important than ever, according to The Wall Street Journal reporter Jennifer Merritt.  “Internships are the new full-time hiring,” Merritt said in a video interview on’s News Hub. “More and more companies are making internships extremely meaningful, and they’re judging their interns and offering them jobs before they go back to school. You’ve got to know about this before you select a college.”

Morgan Donnelly at her graduation.

NC State professors and advisors, Donnelly said, gladly play an essential role in helping their students land quality, high-profile internships that will pay off in the semesters or years to come.  “I did three internships, and all of them helped point me in the right direction,” she said. “During my last semester at NC State, my advisor, Sandra Stallings, insisted I do an internship at WTVD – despite the fact I was taking 18 hours and trying to enjoy my last semester here.

“That internship really helped me, and I’m so thankful she pushed me.”

It was an opportunity and an advantage that Donnelly didn’t take for granted – and one she can’t say is afforded to undergrads at other local colleges and universities.  “I worked with some students from other schools, and many of them didn’t want to try to find jobs,” she said. “They didn’t know how to apply or how to stand out.

“I don’t think other universities prepare their students for jobs as well as NC State does,” Donnelly said. “They teach them lessons, but they don’t teach them useable skills like resume building or website construction to use when they are out on their own.”

Giving students not only the tools they need to succeed, but to teach them how use them – it’s a mindset ingrained in both the advising and educational methods used across NC State’s campus, administrators say.

“Our students graduate with the skills necessary to excel in today’s competitive environment,” Hunt said. “It is especially gratifying to have the employers that hire our graduates recognize the university and its faculty in this way.”

note: An earlier version of this article, written by Dave Pond, appeared at