Penn State students worry about backlash as they seek jobs

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Zach Polovchik, a Penn State senior, returned to campus after a job-hunting trip and was dismayed when he opened the student newspaper.

"No one from Penn State will ever be hired by any company I run in the future," read a letter from Gregory White of Austin, Texas, to the Daily Collegian. "I am sickened beyond belief by the disgusting support of pedophilia shown by Penn State students." Some students rioted after learning that longtime football coach Joe Paterno had been fired in the wake of a scandal involving allegations of child molestation by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Penn State officials are concerned about a backlash from employers as students begin their search for jobs and summer internships. They posted a letter on the school's website imploring recruiters to maintain an open mind about Penn State job-seekers. They also plan to send letters to employers encouraging them to keep the scandal out of the hiring process.

"This week's events are not a result of our student body, Penn State's academic community or Career Services," Jeff Garis, senior director of the placement office, wrote in the open letter on the website. "We are exceptionally proud of our students' professional preparation as well as personal and professional ethics."

Mr. Garis said he investigated rumors that a company, which he declined to name, canceled an internship, and he found no "hard evidence." A career fair scheduled for February has more company representatives signed up to appear than the same event did a year ago, he said.

If potential employers or internship interviewers ask about the scandal, Mr. Garis said he recommends that students not comment on it as part of a job interview.

"My counsel would be to acknowledge the event, and note feeling concern for the victims as we all do," said Mr. Garis, who is a Penn State alumnus. "Students need to focus on themselves and the preparation that they've received."

The Princeton Review, a student information and college test-preparation company, ranked Penn State third in career services among U.S. colleges this year, after the University of Florida and Northeastern University. About 8,750 students earned degrees from Penn State last year, Mr. Garis said.

Global Experiences, a company that places students in internships, is working to find spots for several Penn State students. Among universities, Penn State is Global's second- biggest recruitment source, said Stephen Reilly, founder of the Annapolis, Md.-based company.

The recruiter's staff met recently to discuss how to address the Penn State football scandal with potential employers, Mr. Reilly said.

"We decided it's business as usual," he said. "We are going to keep pushing Penn State candidates."

Mr. Polovchik, a senior majoring in architectural engineering, said the scandal came up only once during his job-seeking trip, in an interview with two people who were themselves Penn State alumni. He said he's still concerned.

"When it comes to jobs and graduates from Penn State, you shouldn't associate the scandal or the riot with them," Mr. Polovchik said.

Jackie Giraldo, a Penn State business major, said she applied for a summer internship with Johnson & Johnson to build on her managerial experience. She said she expects students entering the job market to face questions about the scandal.

"Everyone correlates you to your brand," Ms. Giraldo said. "I think it's unfair. It wasn't 40,000 students that committed the crime."

Johnson & Johnson has "a long history of recruiting outstanding students from Penn State University, and we look forward to continuing that in the future," said Bill Price, a spokesman for the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company. "That's true today and it'll be true tomorrow."

Concern about a backlash has also spilled into preparations for some future events of Thon, Penn State's student-run charity that raised $9.6 million for childhood cancer patients and research last year. It's the biggest student-run charity in the world, according to the organization's website, with more than 15,000 volunteers.

On the weekend of Dec. 2, thousands of those student volunteers will spread out across the East Coast to go "canning" in support of Thon, collecting dollars and coins in containers with a slot on top.

"We're really nervous about it," said Ashley Martin, one of the student volunteers.


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