Will YSU Students Stay Here or Leave?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mia Albaugh planned to leave the area after graduating from Youngstown State University. But a recent collaborative project with The Business Journal has her reconsidering.

Albaugh is one of eight students in the Journalism Workshop class who participated in a project that had the class interview other students on the YSU campus about their post-graduation plans. The project gave the journalism students an opportunity to put their skills into practice while collaborating with a professional news organization.

The class was assigned to conduct video interviews with students from a number of majors and disciplines about their future plans. Topics ranged from what their ideal jobs would be to what they believe they bring to a potential employer and what concerns them about transitioning from college to the workforce.

Albaugh and classmates Jillian McIntosh, Cara Kalouris, Austin Caroline, Kayla Duley, Kyle Wills, Aaron Frantz and Betty Coss conducted the interviews.

Many of the students who Albaugh interviewed said the right job would keep them working locally. Now, she’s thinking the right job opportunity would keep her local as well.

“Doing this project made me think of how many people I’m meeting in the area with my degree. I’m meeting a lot more people than I would have,” Albaugh says. “And then I’m starting to like the area and I kind of want to help improve it.”

Kalouris agrees. After she completes her undergraduate degree, Kalouris plans to pursue a master’s degree in English and work locally.

“I think that it’s cool that people are so passionate about Youngstown, and they are passionate about staying here,” she says.

Austin Caroline found that students in certain career paths had a better idea of where they were going after graduation than others. Plus, recruitment incentives help to keep students local, such as good health benefits and tuition assistance or reimbursement programs.

Kenny Durbin, a YSU nursing major who Caroline interviewed, typified those sentiments.

“If I got a good paying job with benefits and somebody that would offer student loan repayment, and the ability to go back to school and pay for that, that would be awesome,” Durbin said during his interview. “I’d stay here in a heartbeat.”

Caroline, who aspires to work in journalism, now works part-time at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. The hospital offers tuition assistance for medical careers, provided graduates work at the hospital for a set amount of time.

“For nursing, those people go through so many student loans. They have to go through so much debt to be able to get through not just their normal college, but going into nursing school too,” he says. “So having that definitely helps some people keep them there.”

Still, a number of students interviewed said they plan to leave the area, either after graduation or after working locally for a time. Reasons cited include being closer to family who live outside the area or pursuing particular opportunities.

“I’d like to move out. I’ve lived here all my life and I’m ready for a change,” said Christian Febinger, a biology major interviewed by Albaugh. “I love the area. I’ve grown up in the area. I just want to be on a beach.”

“I plan on staying here for about two years, working at a coroner’s office, then moving to Arizona and getting a job there,” said Dexter Stephens, who was interviewed by Caroline. “Arizona is better for forensics. Since I minor in Spanish, it will give me an advantage to work where there’s a lot of Spanish-speaking people,” Stephens said.

During her interviews, Coss, a journalism major, says she found a lot of uncertainty among YSU students.

“They don’t know where they’re going to go, which is concerning. I am a student and I don’t know where I’m going to go,” she says. “It makes me feel a bit understood, though, among my YSU community.”

Coss isn’t sure if she wants to stay local or not. While there are “tons of opportunities for me here in the Youngstown area,” the lure of working for a major news network is “extremely appealing,” she says.

“But at the same time, I enjoy getting to know local areas and tiny people in a big world, because we’re not tiny,” she says. “I think a lot of it depends on where the jobs are.”

Seeing journalism students’ minds change about staying local has been interesting, says Abigail Cloutier, editor-in-chief for The Jambar, the YSU student newspaper.

Cloutier, Jambar Managing Editor Sydney Stalnecker and Journalism Workshop Professor Michele Ristich Gatts assisted in reviewing interview summaries and working with the class on developing print and broadcast stories from the interviews.

Cloutier would like to see the reporters explore the different career services available to YSU students, including advising options and networking opportunities.

Among the Journalism Workshop students, McIntosh wants to become a travel journalist and talk to people from different countries and cultures. The project gave her an opportunity to hone her interview skills for the work.

“It helped with getting out there and talking to people that I normally wouldn’t do,” she says.

Coss says the project provides more hands-on experience with journalism outside of a typical class project. It’s something that will strengthen her résumé when it’s time to look for a job.

It’s also given her a way to overcome the natural anxiety of talking to someone she’s never met.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit shy and introverted,” she says. “A lot of times I push myself, because I know this is for the greater good.”

Asking tough questions of interviewees, such as how much student debt they’ve accrued, was a challenge for Frantz “because it’s really none of my business,” he says. However, he understands why those questions need to be asked and sees the value in the information.

“If you have an angle you’re trying to pursue, absolutely you have to get that,” he says.

Getting the students real-world experience and connecting them with local press professionals was the impetus behind the project, Gatts says.

For The Business Journal, the goal is to learn what YSU students are thinking about their job prospects.

Gatts, a former reporter for The Business Journal and producer at WKBN-TV, says she’s long found value in having students work with community partners. While working at the newspaper, she would keep up with students who were writing for The Jambar.

“We would find somebody who seemed like a good writer and offer them a chance to write a story,” Gatts says. “Andrea would always be very proactive in trying to be involved in fostering the next generation of journalists,” she says of the newspaper’s publisher, Andrea Wood. That’s instilled in me the need to be proactive.”

Pictured: Meet the YSU Journalism Workshop/Brain Gain team. Front row, students Jillian McIntosh, Betty Coss, Mia Albaugh and Cara Kalouris. Back row: Professor Michele Ristich Gatts, Jambar Managing Editor Sydney Stalnecker, student Aaron Frantz, Business Journal content manager Jeremy Lydic, student Austin Caroline and Jambar Editor-in-Chief Abigail Cloutier. (Not present for the photo were students Kyle Wills and Kayla Duley.)

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.