Alumni relate how an economics major diversifies job prospects

Jessica Smith ’07 works for the Department of Homeland Security.

Mike Miller ’10 is a commercial real estate appraiser, and Geneva Hooten ’11 works as a transportation-planning consultant.

Although their careers have little in common, all three alumni majored in economics at Willamette University.

On a recent visit to campus, they — and fellow alumna Jessica Lammers ’07 — discussed the benefits of an economics major with students.

“At Willamette, students gain the skills to communicate and write,” says Hooten, adding students should apply for a variety of jobs — even if they lack all the qualifications.

“People will hire you because you can think and you work hard…Don’t underestimate the skills you have.”

Since graduating, Hooten found employment as a transportation-planning consultant for David Evans and Associates, Inc. She will soon move to Denver, where she will continue to work for the company.

Smith landed her job with the Department of Homeland Security after completing a fellowship in public policy in Washington, D.C. and earning her master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago.

And Lammers, who taught middle school math for two years through Teach for America in Phoenix, later worked for a few years in sports marketing. She’s now pursuing her master’s degree in civil engineering.

During her talk, Lammers advised students to network and gain diverse work experience while still in college.

“Even though Willamette is a small liberal arts school, it is amazing how many connections you can make through internships and job shadowing,” she says. “You have to work for it, but networking definitely pays dividends.”

Miller agrees. After graduating, he researched sustainability issues both at Willamette and for a private company in Salem. Now he works as a commercial real estate appraiser.

He and his fellow panelists advised students not to worry about knowing exactly what they will do after graduation. Instead, they should diversify their skill sets while still in college and forge strong ties with their professors.

“The best thing about Willamette is how accessible the faculty are,” Miller says. “At Willamette, professors will notice if you miss a class, because they want to see you succeed.”