Students worry about job search after integration


California University of Pennsylvania’s 183rd Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, Convocation Center, Dec. 17, 2016. (Jeff Helsel / Cal Times)

Kaitlyn Collins, Editor

Cal U students graduating with a PennWest diploma can be reassured that employers will still recognize and value their college degree.

Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, interim president of Cal U, Clarion and Edinboro, said employers will probably look at students with a PennWest degree the same way they look at other students who graduated from universities that have since changed their names.

“A lot of universities have changed their names. As long as it’s an accredited institution and you have a good education, that’s what employers will look at,” she said.

Zach Huth, president and CEO of Huth Technologies, said in time, it will not matter which of the two names will be stated on students’ diplomas.

“It’s like asking someone who graduated from Pitt or Penn State what campus they graduated from,” said Huth.

Huth Technologies is a company in Pittsburgh that recruits applicants who specialize in engineering, project management and business operations, and it commonly recruits students from Cal U.

His company will still continue to recruit students from PennWest, said Huth.

“My thought is that each campus will retain certain majors and programs that, over time, will serve as their identity,” he said.

Students, however, still identify strongly with Cal U.

Roshini Sanakkayala, a senior Business Administration major, started at Cal in Fall 2018. After taking a semester off to attend basic training for the U.S. Army, she will graduate in the fall of 2022.

“I’d rather just have ‘California University of Pennsylvania’ on my diploma because I’ve gone to school here more when it was just Cal U,” said Sanakkayala, who will only spend one full semester at PennWest.

Dan Engstrom, interim provost at Cal U, wants to reassure students that this is something staff is working on.

“We’ve been assured that it will always say California somehow,” he said. “Like California University at Pennsylvania Western or Pennsylvania Western at California Campus.”

Additionally, some students are unsure of which university’s name to put on their resumes and how this merger could affect their chances of getting a job after graduation. Tom Caton received his undergraduate degree from Cal U in the fall of 2021 and has returned for his master’s degree, planning to graduate in the spring of 2023. He said he feels like there will be some confusion with his degrees since they’ll both be from the same college, just under different names.

“My bachelor’s degree will say Cal U while my master’s degree will say PennWest California,” Caton said. “When it comes to building my resume, I will have no choice but to state that I received my bachelor’s degree from Cal U and my master’s degree from PennWest.”

It has not yet been determined if alumni could apply for a PennWest diploma in the future.

Rhonda Gifford, director of Cal U’s Career and Professional Development Center, said any student who graduates before the merger will still put California University of Pennsylvania on their resume.

“It will take time for people to become familiar with the name of the new university,” said Gifford. “Most employers are interested in your skills, your experiences and what you can do for them even more so than the name of your university.”

As a Cal U alum, Huth personally views the name change as tough, but as an employer, he understands why the merger is important.

“This decision was made to strengthen the universities, not weaken them.”