Seniors’ post graduation plans impacted by pandemic

Some seniors, citing the pandemic’s disruption this past year, plan to remain in the Upper Valley region after Commencement.

by Kristin Chapman | 5/18/21 2:00am

Seniors' post-graduation plans in the Upper Valley include outdoor and agricultural work.
by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

As graduation day approaches, members of the Class of 2021 expressed excitement and uncertainty about post-graduation plans in the midst of a waning pandemic. Many said that they are planning to stay in the Upper Valley following Commencement to finish course requirements or informal gap years. 

Rachel Florman ’21 said that the pandemic significantly impacted her plans this year, as her desire to avoid taking remote classes motivated her to take the fall 2020 term off and instead work for the New Hampshire Democratic Coordinated Campaign during the 2020 general election.

Florman said she felt that taking fall off was the right decision and plans to walk with her class at the 2021 Commencement and take classes on campus this summer. She will officially graduate in September.

“I never anticipated graduating a little late, but we’re here, and I feel fine about it — but it was 100% influenced by the pandemic,” she said.

Post-graduation, Florman said she is moving to Washington, D.C. to pursue a year-long fellowship opportunity. She added that exploring career options during the pandemic came with challenges. Since she did not go through the recruiting process at Dartmouth and was not planning to pursue medicine or law, she said she completed her search independently, with “very little institutional support” from Dartmouth.  

Reyn Hutten ’21 said the pandemic derailed her plans to work in Alaska over the summer for the Dartmouth Indian Islands Institute, a non-profit organization that helps to educate rising environmental leaders.

“This will be the second year in a row that they have a very minimal amount of students [due to COVID-19], and my goal in working there was to interact with a lot of students,” Hutten said. 

She added that because the funding options from Dartmouth will be “slimmer” post-graduation, the opportunity “no longer made a lot of sense this summer.”

Instead, she will be guiding sea kayak tours in the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

“It will be pretty fun for me to learn about [the San Juan Islands], and then also teach about them in a science-, history- and human-centered way,” she said.

Hutten plans to work for the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service during next winter and may work another season as a kayaking guide in the summer. While she is currently conducting research on soil phosphorus cycling in Greenland, she also hopes to attend graduate school for ecology.

“I would like serious scientific research to be a component of my career,” she said. 

Kevin Donohue ’21 is planning to stay in the Upper Valley area after he graduates.

“I think the general picture for the next year is a bit of a gap year while I figure out what I’m doing next,” he said. 

Donohue explained that he has a job lined up with the DOC Trail Crew this summer and plans to stay in Lebanon with friends afterwards. He added that he hopes to complete a research project with the Dartmouth Outdoor Programs Office.

“The job with the Outdoor Programs Office is a little more in limbo because of the pandemic, which affects its hiring and budget,” he said. 

Donohue attributes his desire to stay in the area to “not having a normal senior year” and wanting to be close to the College to experience campus opening back up.

“I love the Upper Valley, and I think just spending time and engaging in normal activities in the area without the pandemic … has definitely motivated me to stick around a little longer, and also the weird job situations that are going on,” Donohue added.

Rachel Kent ’21 said she also felt inclined to stay near the Upper Valley and plans to work at a biodynamic vineyard — a vineyard that only uses natural materials — near Hanover this summer. Last summer, she had planned on visiting multiple farms as part of her ethnography research for her senior thesis, but she ended up working with just one vineyard because it was difficult to travel during the pandemic. 

“Because I was there for the whole entire summer, I was able to really develop a close relationship with the place and the people there and grow to love it, so that’s one of the big reasons I'm returning,” Kent said. 

In October, Kent will start a Fulbright cultural exchange program in Italy, where she will pursue a masters degree at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. 

“I just hope to work at something at the intersection of food and farming,” Kent said, “and hope to be doing it in a way that makes the world a better place.”

Center for Professional Development Director Monica Wilson wrote in an email that the CPD launched a survey on May 11 “to obtain information from the seniors about their future plans.”

Although she did not have data to share yet, she wrote that the survey will run through the first week of June. 

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