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 Montpelier Magazine

Staff from the U.S. Army Audit Agency recruit a few talented Dukes at JobFair 2003. A representative from Chicken Out Rotisserie Inc. talks with an applicant.

Searching for a few good Dukes

THE METRO WASHINGTON Alumni Chapter has developed a successful formula for raising scholarship money - provide a venue for national and regional companies to purchase exhibit space and vie for talented JMU students and alumni.

Sound conceited? Not when you consider just who's looking for a few good Dukes: the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, AFLAC, American Express and MetLife.

Thirty-five companies and organizations recruited JMU talent in January at the third Metro Washington Alumni Chapter Job Fair. The chapter raised more than $4,000 for its scholarship endowment, while 550 alumni, students and friends applied for jobs. Fifty percent of the job seekers were alumni, 23 percent were students, and 27 percent were guests and friends who read about the fair in The Washington Post.

"Considering the job market, we were braced for a small event," says Mark Cher-nisky ('92), "but we were thrilled by the turn-out and response from employers. We filled the room up quickly. Next year we may need to find a bigger space." The job fair is the brainchild of Chernisky, who chairs the Metro Washington Alumni Chapter Career Services Committee.

Each year the chapter begins with a 900-piece mailing to invite Maryland, Virginia and D.C.-area businesses and organizations to purchase a job fair exhibit space. Four to five alumni volunteers then follow up with phone calls, and they've often been greeted by another friendly JMU voice.

National Security Agency linguist Patrice Shackleford ('85), a Russian and French double major, represented the NSA at the job fair. "I was expecting a quiet day, but it was packed. I collected more than 100 resumes, and I'm sure NSA will interview some of the applicants. … Although JMU's information security program was a draw for us, NSA looks for a variety of different skill fields. We hire lots of computer and technical engineers, but we also look for people with internationally focused degrees like international relations and foreign languages. We had a long line all day, and most applicants were computer science majors, but we got some great language candidates that will be contacted. The job fair is very well coordinated; I'm sure we'll attend next year."

"We were excited to have three national agencies represented at the job fair," says Chernisky.

"I think it demonstrates what employers think of JMU and its programs. There was a definite jump in attendance this year from employers in the sectors of health care and insurance and financial services and a strong demand for health-care technicians, nurses and health-care administration graduates. Every hospital or health-care facility in the Northern Virginia area has some expansion project under construction or planned. Other companies attending the fair included GTSI, a company that sells computers and software to federal, state and local government agencies; Boat U.S.; Verizon; homebuilders NVR and Centex; Goodman and Co., and Cambridge Associates. … We couldn't do this without the help of the JMU alumni relations staff. They were of immeasurable help to our alumni volunteers."

Metro Washington alumni leaders will award the chapter's second $1,000 scholar-ship this fall. For more information about the job fair or to contribute to the scholarship fund, visit

•  Michelle Hite ('88)