By Kristofer Noceda
HAYWARD – Be pioneers.
That was the main advice Terri Swartz, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Cal State East Bay, gave to graduates at a commencement ceremony Sunday.
While graduates flashed huge smiles on their special day, many of them could not help but think about their future in today's struggling economy.
"It definitely is hard out there," said Steven Phommachack, a resident of San Jose who graduated with a degree in information technology management. "Hopefully now I'll have a better chance of getting a job. But who knows."
Phommachack, 29, recently was let go from a part-time information technology job. He since has applied with other companies searching for work but has yet to hear back.
Kelly Xue, 23, graduated with an accounting degree. The Oakland resident plans to work toward becoming a certified public accountant before searching for employment.
"I don't have the confidence in this economy that I'll be able to find a job that meets my needs," Xue said.
Still, there were graduates who consider themselves fortunate to have employment lined up already.
Huy Tran, 25, has been working as an accountant for Redwood Dental in Castro Valley since February.
"I was lucky," he said. "I feel for other graduates who haven't been able to find a job, because we are all excited to finish school. But now what are they going to look forward to?"
Swartz addressed the issue during her speech to graduates and offered encouragement.
"Pioneers are known for blazing trails and opening new frontiers. So, it should come as no surprise that this morning, I challenge you to look at today's California — and instead of seeing the problems, look for the opportunities," she said.
"Find new frontiers for yourself and become a trail blazer. Chart new paths and discover new approaches and solutions. The only limitations that lie before you are the ones you place there."
Nearly 5,000 students earned degrees from Cal State East Bay this past weekend. Of the degrees handed out, 1,018 came from the College of Business and Economics.