Monday’s announcement of this year’s Valediction speaker has only served to remind the University of Virginia’s fourth-year students that their time on Grounds is coming to a close. In just three short months, they will walk the Lawn as undergraduates one last time.

Recently, the University asked alumni to share their best advice for the Class of 2016 via Facebook. You can see the full list of advice on UVA’s Facebook page, but here are some of the highlights, from turning your passion into your career to cherishing your friendships.

UVA is committed to giving students the resources they need to be successful in their chosen career paths. Everette Fortner, associate vice president of career and professional development who leads the UVA Career Center, recently sat down with UVA Today to talk discuss just how UVA gives students an edge in the job market.

He stressed the need to debunk the “major equals career” myth. “Our career communities and services are designed to help students of all majors get the expertise to get the job they want, in the field they enjoy,” Fortner said. Learn more about how UVA is helping students launch their careers here.

One of the Career Center’s biggest resources is its abundance of job fairs. From major-specific fairs to those that cater to growing student interest in entrepreneurship, UVA hosts nearly 20 career fairs and brings hundreds of organizations on Grounds each academic year to recruit and interview students.

Leaving Grounds and starting your first job can be very daunting. The lessons you’ve learned in the classroom at UVA will undoubtedly help you succeed in your career, but you might also find yourself relying on the little things unique to UVA that were special to your college experience. From tips on how to network and how to stand out, to where to inspiration, take a look at this uniquely UVA guide to acing your first job.

Just because it doesn’t count toward your major, don’t discredit a class that piques your interest. You never know how that one extra class could affect your entire career.

Jason George, who graduated in 1994, came to UVA intent upon becoming a lawyer. But then he took an acting class on Grounds and everything changed. He now stars as Dr. Ben Warren on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Fewer than six years after walking the Lawn, UVA mechanical engineering graduate Kristine Cheesman is a vice president at one of the largest banks in the world. Cheesman attributes her success in finance to her engineering background. “Engineers solve problems by looking at all of the variables first and then consolidating into a cohesive solution,” she said. “That skill is particularly relevant in business – it’s what I do every day at HSBC.”

Current fourth-year student Miles Jackson believes that his liberal arts classes gave him the edge he needed to land a job on Wall Street – while teaching him about philosophy, African-American history or political thought.

Though academics are an incredibly large part of your time on Grounds, your passions and hobbies might actually end up guiding your career.

Ryan Kuehl, a former lineman on the UVA football team and a former long snapper for the NFL’s Washington Redskins and New York Giants, is a perfect example. Kuehl, a 1994 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce, followed his dreams of playing in the NFL and did just that for 12 years. Now retired from football, Kuehl is the vice president of sports marketing and sponsorships for Under Armour Inc.

“Football was just a head start and I used every opportunity I could to further myself, whether through networking, through education or through extending my NFL career as far as I could,” he said.

UVA also offers students plenty of unique opportunities to travel and learn around the world. The Virginia Gentlemen, UVA’s oldest a cappella group, regularly travels and performs around the world and has seen some amazing places along the way. This January, the group performed on a cruise to Antarctica, marking the seventh and final continent that it has visited over the years.

Wondering how to turn your passion into your career? A UVA music degree can catapult you into a lifetime of performing, but it can also lead to a career you might never have imagined. Rachel Dady, who graduated in 2012 with a double major in music and American studies, is now a digital producer for Nickelodeon’s Teen Nick programming. She creates both digital and on-air content and has had the opportunity to interview well-known artists, cover music video premieres and even sing on a few demo records. (See how four other UVA alumni turned their music major into a thriving career.)

Alumnus Richard Danziger studied drama at UVA and worked in theater for years before deciding to pursue humanitarian work full-time. He joined the International Organization for Migrants, where he set up refugee camps after the Rwandan genocide, led aid operations in Afghanistan and was recently promoted to lead the group’s work in western and central Africa.

In just a few short months, fourth-year students will take part in the greatest UVA tradition of all: processing down the Lawn and becoming able to say, “I have worn the honors of Honor; I graduated from Virginia.” But before you do that, take the time to reminisce about all of the other incredible things you were able to take part in while on Grounds. From Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn, to Pancakes for Parkinson’s and Lighting of the Lawn, your time on Grounds has been full of excitement.

The friendships you’ve made over the last four years have had a huge impact on your college experience. But that doesn’t mean they can’t continue when your time on Grounds is over.

Alvaro Anspach and Joseph Linzon, both 2015 graduates of the McIntire School of Commerce, teamed up with fellow alumni Jung Kim (2014) and Alberto Namnum (2015) to open Roots Natural Kitchen in June. The idea for Roots, which is located on the Corner, took shape in the halls of the McIntire School of Commerce.

“McIntire is an amazing place to meet people,” Anspach said. “I sat around every day with some of the most brilliant people I have ever met.”

In more good news for UVA grads, the most recent Gallup survey found that UVA alumni are more likely than most to be emotionally attached to their alma mater. UVA grads were also more likely than their national peers to report thriving in each of five dimensions of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.


Media Contact

Caroline Newman

University News Associate Office of University Communications