At Your Service
USD provides options galore for those who need assistance
by Ryan T. Blystone


he signs are everywhere.

Stores that once displayed their name in lights are now dark and deserted. The stock market careens up and down on a daily basis. The unemployment rate in California is at astaggering level. Home foreclosures are increasingly common. It seems like one piece of bad news after another: Times are tough and getting tougher.

But tough times can bring out the best in people. Take Gregory Pogue, USD’s director of human resources. While he and his staffwork diligently on behalf of the university’s 1,670 benefits-based employees, Pogue doesn’t hesitate to reach out beyond Alcalá Park’s boundaries.

Pogue saw a Sunday newspaper photo that showed a woman wearing a sandwich board in downtown San Diego, telling anyone who’d pay attention that she lost her job and was looking for work. “When I came in to work on Monday, I said ‘Let’s find her and invite her here.’” The woman appreciated the gesture and made good use of the university’s employment resources.

“She was so appreciative. Those are the kinds of things we do because of who we are and our sense of community,” Pogue says.

The urge to jump in and help isn’t new at a values-based institution like USD. In fact, many of our schools have centers and institutes devoted to assisting people on- and off-campus with business advice, networking opportunities and more.

“We’re providing resource man power in a lot of places and the university, as a whole, is doing that,” says Elaine Elliott, director of the Center for Community Service-Learning. A number of on-campus organizations offer spiritual assistance, opportunities to work with area community organizations and a place for the campus community to come together.

Students with more immediate needs can head to the Career Services office, which aims to help them prepare for the unstable job market with job fairs, résumé writing and interviewing tips. The office has also organized events for alumni who need career assistance.

Those pondering a return to the classroom so they’re armed and ready when the economic situation improves will find a wealth of options on campus.

“We have great educational programs for people who decide this is the time to seek an additional degree or to retrain themselves,” Provost Julie Sullivan says. “If you’re thinking about going back to school for whatever it might be, we have the breadth of programs here to satisfy that.”

One popular option is USD’s Paralegal Program, the oldest American Bar Association-approved program in San Diego. Taught by practicing attorneys, students learn about researching and managing cases, drafting documents, interviewing clients and preparing trial exhibits.

Wendy Agostinelli, a certified paralegal and legal fees auditor in San Marcos, went through the accelerated day program — which takes just over three months to complete — in 1989. Twenty years later, she says it’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

“It really helped me with my research and writing abilities,” Agostinelli says.“I love the program there. It was nice going to a smaller university that still has all the resources and is very connected.”

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science offers the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), which is specifically designed for students who already have a college degree in another subject but want to pursue a nursing career.

The university is also trying to keep pace as advances in technology and sustainability awareness spawn new career opportunities. “We’re certainly expanding our programming, and some of this is a result of the economic downturn,” Sullivan says. “The economic stimulus package is very focused on clean technology, green industries. We have new programs, centers, institutes and majors dealing with preparing students to be leaders in that clean tech sector of the economy.”