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Caitlin Whitney ’08 and Matt Stollak

April 2008

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Graduate/employer salary expectations vary, research finds

Matthew Stollak (Business Administration) and his student research partners have identified a disconnect between recent graduates and prospective employers.

The team reports that the graduates they surveyed expected to earn more than most employers reported they were willing to offer to entry-level employees.

Thirty-eight percent of area employers indicated their company’s starting salaries for college graduates ranged between $25,000 and $29,999.

The college graduates, however, were expecting somewhat higher compensation as they began their first career. Sixty-one percent indicated they expected to earn between $30,000 and $39,999.

Last spring, Stollak joined forces with Caitlin Whitney ’08, Lindsey Yedica ’07 and Lauren Hartman ’07, students in his Advanced Human Resource Management class, to compare the relationship between recent graduate and employer expectations of college graduates entering the marketplace.

With the guidance of Stollak, Whitney and her team surveyed a number of area businesses belonging to the Green Bay area chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to find out what recruiters look for in recent graduates, how they evaluate entry level applicants’ skills and what they are willing to offer these new prospects.

The team compared the responses they got from businesses that included SEEK Careers, Miller Electric, Schreiber Foods and Schneider National with data from an earlier survey on recent graduate expectations conducted by the St. Norbert College student SHRM chapter.

They discovered that recent graduates generally perceive themselves to be more skilled and deserving than do employers.

There were certain areas in which this wasn’t the case. The survey results indicated that recent college graduates underestimated the value of their computer proficiency. Employers rated college graduates’ computer proficiency at a higher level than graduates rated themselves.
Next month Stollak and Whitney will take this collaboration a step further, to examine whether the disconnect between entry-level employee expectations of wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, and those that businesses are prepared to offer, has contributed to the “brain drain” of college grads leaving the state.

Stollak says, “This project rewards a number of stakeholders. The students learned about the research process and how it can provide clarity about interesting questions. The Green Bay area SHRM chapter and its professionals benefited from getting to know and nurture several future HR professionals. For me, it was rewarding to see students work through their ideas to reach a satisfying conclusion.” 

Collaborations like Stollak’s with his students are encouraged by the Office of Faculty Development. Gayle Lenz says such research pairings offer unique experiences for undergraduates.

“Those of our students who go on to graduate school are ahead of their colleagues in that they have already been involved in research and may already have published that research,” she says.

“These collaborations also keep students, and especially faculty/staff, thrilled with the teaching and learning process. There is nothing quite like that ‘ah ha!’ moment when the student discovers something new and pushes himself or herself to a new level of excitement.”

Lenz says her colleagues are always looking for ways to showcase the hard work and innovative projects students undertake with their faculty/staff mentors, in order to encourage more students and faculty/staff to participate in these collaborations.

Stollak and Whitney will be presenting their findings along with 22 other research teams at the Celebrating Student and Faculty/Staff Collaboration event on campus April 8.

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