WMU graduates succeed

Contact: Paula M. Davis

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Sadarra Fields had no intention of staying in Michigan when she graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. 

Some interviews, a mentor counseled, would just be practice. 

But Fields made quite an impression on officials from a Michigan performing arts academy who attended a WMU career fair looking for a music teacher. 

“They invited me to come for a second interview, and that’s when I kind of freaked out,” she says. “They offered me the job on the spot.” 

The new graduate was so in love with the school—it has an entire wing dedicated to the performing arts—she accepted.

Fields now directs vocal music at the Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts in Detroit, teaching general music to students in kindergarten through second grade and vocal music to children in third through eighth grade. She also leads three choirs and an afterschool vocal club.

“I love it here because the kids are getting what they need academically, but they are also being exposed to the arts,” she says. “I feel that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” 

Degreed to succeed

Fields is among the thousands of newly minted alumni who exemplify data demonstrating the immediate success so many WMU students have found after graduating.

A full 92 percent of 2015-16 alumni were employed or in graduate school within three months of commencement, new data compiled by campus employment services officials show. 

For those employed, 84 percent were employed in jobs related to their academic discipline, 88 percent were satisfied with their jobs and 76 percent were employed in Michigan. The median salary range for all respondents was $40,000 to $45,000

Figures for the 2015-16 year that ended June 30 included responses from a full 75 percent of the year’s 5,000-plus graduates. 

With that high percentage of respondents and the 90-day timeframe reflected in the data, the WMU annual report has emerged as the most comprehensive documentation of postgraduate success found at any Michigan university. 

The survey is the product of six years of work by Dr. Ewa Urban, associate director for assessment in WMU’s Career and Student Employment Services. 

Starting with responses from just 25 percent of graduates in 2009-10, she has built a survey and outreach program that for the most recent report netted responses from 3,766 of the 5,049 students who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 2015-16. 

Working with Amy Galick, who is a graduate assistant working on a master’s degree in applied mathematics, and data analyst Christopher Shank, Urban says her team was able to make the most recently completed report the most thorough to date.

“Overall, 72 percent of our data in this report was obtained through an online questionnaire, and 28 percent was gathered through LinkedIn or information shared by department chairs, faculty and staff,” Urban says.

Other key findings

In addition to active engagement and salaries, the survey results showcase a wealth of additional important information. 

Findings from the 2015-16 assessment include:

  • WMU grads found employment in 44 other states, but the majority—76 percent—stayed in Michigan.
  • Internships play a critical role in postgraduate employment. Some 80 percent of grads completed an internship or other experiential opportunity while in school.
  • Forty-four percent of alumni were employed after graduation by a pre-graduation employer.

Those continuing their education were enrolled at WMU and at 128 other graduate schools around the world, ranging from Harvard and the Boston Conservancy to the University of Belfast and the University of Australia Melbourne.

The comprehensive data is available online. It is broken out by college and major within colleges and by degree level. The report includes all majors for which sufficient data was collected to be considered valid. Each category includes detailed information on active engagement and salary as well as a sample of the organizations in which graduates in those majors are now employed. 

Read more about WMU’s distinctive people and programs in the spring 2017 issue of W Magazine, a publication of WMU's Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications.