Facing Tough Job Market, Graduating Seniors Share Success Stories

May 15, 2020

Despite the unexpected challenges in today’s employment market, many of Florida Southern’s Class of 2020 graduates are securing positions in their chosen fields. Here are some of their stories:

Melissa Hansard 

Audit Associate for RSM

While finishing her studies at Florida Southern with degrees in accounting and psychology, Melissa Hansard of Coral Springs took advantage of the College’s early Master of Accountancy program to complete all MAcc requirements within her senior year and the upcoming summer term. She has accepted a full-time offer from RSM, an auditing, tax, and consulting firm in Tampa, starting work as an audit associate in fall 2020.

“I found the position at RSM through the Meet The Firms event the FSC accounting department puts on every year. It was the first year RSM had attended this event. I was able to meet with the audit partner, who recommended me for an interview, which resulted in an offer of an internship for the summer of my junior year. After a competitive eight-week internship, I was one of five out of the 13 interns who got a full-time offer; I was extremely proud and honored to be the only intern from a small school to have received a full-time offer.”

Following her internship, Hansard strengthened her ties to the firm by helping with recruitment at the most recent Meet the Firms event. As the founding president of FSC’s accounting honors fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), she also secured a $1,000 donation from RSM to sponsor a team in the fraternity’s first planned Beat The Firms kickball event. Although the event was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, RSM and other sponsoring companies have committed to supporting next year’s Beat The Firms.

“I would strongly encourage all business students to go on corporate visits, attend speaker events, hold leadership positions, and just get involved in any way possible. The connections you make at FSC with professors, students, and businesses will serve you throughout your career in the business world.”

Avery Hunter 

Marketing and Sales for JELD-WEN

In the summer of 2019, Avery Hunter landed a communication internship in the marketing department at JELD-WEN, a leading manufacturer of windows and doors with headquarters in her hometown of Charlotte, N.C. As graduation approached, Hunter was excited to accept a position in the company’s Early Career Rotational Program, which enables talented new employees to explore roles in six different strategic business areas. 

She will be working on the company’s commercial track, with a scheduled start date of June 8.

At FSC, Hunter majored in communication, focusing on advertising and public relations, with a minor in advertising design. “The classes that helped me the most were my Ad Creative class and Principles of Marketing,” she says. 

“I came into college not 100 percent sure of what I wanted to do. My first-ever internship was with a small art gallery in Charlotte. The first job or internship you get doesn’t have to be the exact thing you want to do in the future; what’s important is the experience and the networking that you receive from that position.”

Quinlan Harsch 

Staff member with FSC’s Information Technology Services

Two years ago, Florida Southern’s Computer Science Department helped Quinlan Hirsch to obtain an internship with the College’s Information Technology Services. He remade the home page of the College’s computer portal to make it more usable for students, then was hired part-time last year to help automate the housing-selection process. He started working full-time, remotely, in early May.

His advice for other graduates who haven’t yet found jobs: “Networking isn’t some scary thing. Reach out to your classmates who have jobs, talk to your professors and career services, and ask your family for help finding opportunities. If you’re looking, then you’re doing enough; just keep at it.”

Emily Shoaff 

Adult Acute Surgery Resident at Vanderbilt University Hospital

Emily Shoaff has been interested in securing a position with Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville for a few years. In April, she interviewed via Skype and received a job offer five days later for a position in one of their surgical units, with a tentative start date of July 20. 

“I’ve always wanted to be in Tennessee, and I want to go to grad school within three years,” she says. “Vanderbilt offers tuition reimbursement to anyone who works in their facilities.”

Currently living in Orlando, Shoaff says she will be able to take her licensure exam in Florida to obtain a multi-state license.

Her advice to other nursing students is to “start looking for jobs as early as you can; get to know where you want to work before you apply — and apply broadly.” 

She also points out that employers are looking for leaders. While at FSC, Shoaff was on the equestrian team for four years and captain for two years, she served on the student athlete advisory committee for two years, and was a member of the Phi Eta Sigma national honor society.

“It’s important to be involved during your time in school, to show that you can handle situations outside of your major.”

Cristina Calderon 

Trauma ICU Resident at Lakeland Regional Health

After working for about two years as a tech on the Trauma ICU floor at Lakeland Regional Health, Cristina Calderon recently received a residency offer. 

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Calderon was the first member of her family to earn a high school or college degree. “I’m trying to set an example for my younger brother and sister,” she says. “My brother graduated high school, and my sister — who’s 16 — plans to attend college.”

Calderon’s friends from the Class of 2020 “are applying anywhere and everywhere,” she says. “The worst they can say is ‘no.’ We are needing more nurses, but hiring may not be a priority right now, as is taking care of patients who are critically ill.”

Her advice to job seekers in the current COVID-19 environment? “Don’t give up. I know this is frustrating, graduating without a job lined up, but trust the process. The time will come.”

Tina Pagano 

Communication and Education Assistant for Lakeland Fire Department

A communication major with concentrations in advertising and public relations as well as interpersonal and organizational communication, Lakeland native Tina Pagano is excited to have found a job that allows her to stay in the area. She will be based at the Lakeland Fire Department’s Station 1 on East Main Street.

“I love communications and I’ve always wanted to teach, and this allows me to do both,” she says.

Pagano’s experience at Florida Southern prepared her well to find post-graduation employment, she says. “One of the most beneficial events would be Moc Interview Day. Having a real employer work though an interview with me really allowed me to have the tools to nail the interview for my dream job.”

Her tips for other graduates who are searching for a job: “Always be confident in yourself and your abilities, do not downplay your goals and accomplishments, and know you have the tools and skills to be the best.” 

Shannon Wood 

Financial Analyst for Lockheed Martin

Originally from Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Shannon Wood has had internships in corporate development at the headquarters of Dealer Tire and as a finance intern at Lockheed Martin’s Missile and Fire Control division in Orlando. She began working remotely as a finance intern in Lockheed Martin’s Global Financial Services location in Lakeland, and in June will start as a financial analyst associate in Orlando.

“I chose to attend FSC after doing lots of research and visiting many schools,” she says. “I fell in love with FSC’s campus and community while attending Scholar’s Weekend. The learning climate and opportunities available through The Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise were unmatched.”

Wood earned a BS in economics and finance, with minors in accounting and business administration. She credits her professors for taking a personal interest in her success, providing guidance that helped her navigate various career path options. “They were generous with office hours and provided extra assistance to make sure I understood course material.”

She also advises current students to take advantage of the College’s career services.

“Do not wait,” she says. “Get to know the staff as soon as possible. Build a four-year career plan, make appointments for help with resumes and LinkedIn, attend etiquette luncheons, networking functions, Moc Interviews, and career fairs. Cast a wide net and seek experiences and opportunities that might take you out of your comfort zone or which seem out of reach.”  

Reems Landreth 

Multiplatform Producer at WMAZ-TV

During his time at Florida Southern, Naples native Reems Landreth has had five internships and four on-campus jobs, in addition to creating a campus news network. A communication major in multimedia journalism, he graduated with a minor in business administration.

Landreth’s search for a television job involved submitting applications to 40 stations and connecting with a friend of his advisor, Prof. Will Allen, who works within the industry. 

“I knew that finding a job at a good station was going to be hard no matter what, due to the limited openings and the amount of students wanting to go into the industry,” he says. “I ended up receiving two interviews for the same company, TEGNA, an hour apart from each other.” He accepted an offer from the second of those interviews — at WMAZ-TV in Macon, Ga. — just as the COVID-19 crisis started to spread across the country.

“I would always tell prospective students that you get out of Florida Southern what you put into it. Do what you’re passionate about, and everything else will fall into place. There’s no school quite like FSC, and I’m thankful that it has taught me what I need to be successful in my life.”

Emily Suzuki 

Cash Applications Associate with Lockheed Martin

Emily Suzuki started working in the Global Financial Services department at Lockheed Martin’s Lakeland location in early May. She is part of their accounts receivable team, processing all invoices that come into Lockheed Martin’s space division.

Originally from Hatfield, Pa., Suzuki doubled majored in business administration and economics and finance.

“I know for a fact that I would not be in this position if I did not attend Florida Southern,” she says. “I was the 2018 Sharpe Fellowship recipient — a fellowship that is only open to FSC students — and that was my first experience in an office. It helped to prepare me for my current role.” 

“I would tell fellow students to capitalize on every opportunity possible, because FSC offers a lot of them.”

Claire Tucker 

Accountant for Foresite Group

Graduating with a double major in accounting and business administration, Melbourne native Claire Tucker started her job in mid-April with the Foresite Group, an engineering, planning, and design firm in Tampa. 

“Something I learned during my job search was to not give up, and to practice interviewing as much as possible,” she says. “Working through the questions and trying to determine what answers they were looking for helped to secure a job that was mutually beneficial for me and the company.” 

“It also takes patience to apply for many different jobs but only hear from a few. It’s the nature of job searching, but not something I had realized would happen.”

Arjeet Tipirneni 

Doctoral Student at University of Florida College of Dentistry

“Starting at Florida Southern, I had one goal in mind: to do everything that I needed to do to achieve my dream of becoming a dentist,” says Arjeet Tipirneni, who will enter dental school at the end of August. “On Move-In Day, I wrote out my goals on my dorm room white board. Even though all my friends teased me for my white board, I remained steadfast in my goal.”

Tipirneni came to FSC as part of an Early Acceptance Program (EAP) through a different dental school, but he applied to the University of Florida outside of the EAP program and in March was accepted into UF’s College of Dentistry.  A biology major on the pre-dental track, he earned a minor in business administration as well.

“I knew when I got out into the field, I would want to have my own practice,” Tipirneni says. “And a business administration minor would also be helpful to get into dentistry school.”

From day one, Tipirneni pursued his dream with the help and guidance of his advisor, Dr. Nancy Morvillo, professor of biology and department chair. Together, they planned a schedule of all the classes he would need to take in order to be a competitive candidate for graduate school — and he stuck to it.

While at FSC, Tipirneni also became involved in a wide variety of activities and organizations outside of his academic field. He was an active member of the Climbing Club, served as president of the Astronomy Club for two years, and spent three years as a member of the Student Government Association, first as a senator, then executive vice president, before being elected the student body president in his senior year. “A lot of my networking skills came from being in student government. It turned me into a well-rounded person, it helped me in public speaking, and I definitely got a little bit of the public service bug, to be involved in the community.”

“Florida Southern afforded me the opportunity to not only achieve my goals, but to also transform me into a confident student and productive member of society.”

Sarah Burton 

Graduate Assistant at Mississippi State University

In addition to her double major in sport business management and business administration, Sarah Burton worked at FSC’s Nina B. Hollis Wellness Center as an intramural official and supervisor for three and a half years, during which time she had opportunities to attend conferences and visit recreation facilities at other universities. She also gained valuable experience through an internship with Xavier University Athletics.

Burton credits her advisor, Assistant Professor of Business and Economics Dr. Nicholas Nugent, and the professional staff at the Wellness Center for their encouragement and assistance in applying for her upcoming graduate assistantship in competitive sports at Mississippi State University. She refers to them as “the ultimate role models and mentors that I needed.” 

“They helped me with resumes, cover letters, emails, and applications. The staff at Florida Southern always had my back and always pushed me to follow my dreams. They have so many connections and are always willing to help.”

Lisa Scheffrahn 

Residential Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty

Now working as a Realtor sales associate with Coldwell Banker Realty in Plantation, Fla., Lisa Scheffrahn will soon begin working as a residential Realtor for the same company.

She became licensed as a sales associate in September 2018 after taking a 63-hour pre-licensure course and passing Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation exam. She placed her license in an inactive status with Coldwell Banker’s referral network until last summer, when she took the required 45-hour post-licensing real estate course.

“After completing my Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration, I activated my license back home in South Florida with Coldwell Banker Realty. I will be working in the residential real estate market, and I can refer anyone to an associate anywhere.”

Scheffrahn is also a member of the Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors professional board.

Ryan Pask 

Real Estate Accounting Specialist for Publix

In May 2019, Ryan Pask began working on the corporate level with Publix Super Markets, Inc. He started as an accounting intern, moved to a part-time position in the expense payables department in August, then was promoted to a part-time position as a real estate accounting specialist in February 2020, moving into a full-time position in May.

Pask, who is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., was a double major in accounting and business administration-management.

His advice to others who are looking for employment: “Be prepared to make a connection in any interview you have. Just answering the questions isn’t enough any more; if it is an in-person interview, be keen on what is in the office or what they are wearing. Find a common interest in the surroundings, to make a connection. This will help you be remembered — and make you look personable — a valuable trait in the office.”

Emily Stevens 

Elementary Teacher in Duval County

An elementary education major with a minor in Spanish, Emily Stevens has an open contract for a teaching position in Duval County, although she hasn’t yet learned the specific school or grade level.

The Tallahassee native says FSC’s School of Education did an incredible job of providing her with field experiences, “starting as early as my first semester of college, in numerous different schools.”

When she was looking for a teaching job, Stevens contacted her professors.

“They offered to look over my resume, help with letters of recommendation, and connect me with principals from schools all over the state of Florida,” she says. “If you are struggling to find a job or need help on where to start, I recommend that you reach out to your professors, for they are an excellent resource.”



Florida Southern sends First Destination Surveys to the College’s latest graduates within six months of each commencement. In recent surveys, respondents have reported a 97 percent placement rate in employment/internships, graduate/professional schools, military service, and volunteer service. Today, our new graduates and alumni alike face unprecedented uncertainties in the job market as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic — and FSC’s career services staff are ready to help.

Reach out to career services for assistance in a variety of areas:

  • To email your resume and cover letter for review, recommendations, and refinements
  • To craft cover letters that are tailored to match different types of jobs
  • To polish your LinkedIn profile as the first step in creating a commanding digital presence
  • To set up an individualized job search strategy
  • To learn how you can stand out as a competitive candidate
  • To prepare your applications to professional and graduate school
Office of Career & Continuing Education | careercenter@flsouthern.edu
Health Professions & STEM Career Development Center | healthprofessionsstem@flsouthern.edu