An illustration of professionals looking at a downward economic curve due to COVID-19
August 6, 2020

These Highlanders graduated in the last economic recession. Here’s their advice for the class of 2020

Alumni that graduated during the last economic recession have unanimous advice for recent grads: The first job does not define you

Author: Madeline Adamo
August 6, 2020

“Be flexible with what is out there. Once you land your first gig in the professional world, the next step will be even easier.” Don’t take it from us. Take it from Meredith Bloomquist ’08, who graduated from UC Riverside during the nation’s last economic recession and went from renting cars to becoming a software engineer— with a few extra steps along the way.

The 2008 financial crisis resulted in the worst global recession since the second world war, making it difficult for many in that year’s graduating class to navigate the job market. Looking back at the experiences of those Highlanders, however, may offer important lessons for job seekers in the coronavirus recovery ahead.

We reached out to class years 2008 and 2009 to ask what advice they have for the class of 2020, or any Highlander making career decisions. Responses demonstrate that a UCR degree has paid dividends for their graduates, a notion in line with a new CNBC ranking placing UCR No. 14 in its annual “50 Colleges that Pay Off the Most” list. Editors for CNBC said the ranking carries greater weight due to scrutiny of higher education cost-benefits in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what our alumni have to say:

*Some responses have been edited for brevity


Name: Meredith Bloomquist

Major at UCR: Sociology

Grad Year: 2008

Current Profession: Site Reliability Engineer

What advice/encouragement do you have for the class of 2020?: I know you just spent four or so years trying to figure out what you want to do with yourself after graduating. Current events don't help those already uncertain and they may be throwing a wrench in the solid plans that were made by others. My advice is to take a job that may not be the ideal job you had in mind after graduating. Be flexible with what is out there. Once you land your first gig in the professional world, the next step will be even easier.

Looking back on graduation: My first job after college was renting cars, then I did customer support at a tech company, decided to get a master's in Computer Information, and now am a site reliability engineer. Life will take you to where you need to be. The first job out of college does not have to define your path.


Name: Marcus Freeman

Major at UCR: Sociology

Grad Year: 2009

Current Profession: Social Worker

What advice/encouragement do you have for the class of 2020?: Learn to develop patience. Use down time to plan and develop ways to take action to move your plan forward. Rely on support from friends and family. Remember this accomplishment and know your future is bright regardless of current circumstances.

Looking back on graduation: I graduated in 2009. It was a tough time with trying to find a job during a recession. I had to take jobs I wasn’t fond of and really had to humble myself and learn patience during this time period. I planned my next move and was able to attend grad school for my Master of Social Work. 


Name: Patricia Wilson

Major at UCR: Art History

Grad Year: 2009

Current Profession: Registered Nurse

What advice/encouragement do you have for the class of 2020?: After graduating from UCR, I interned for a few galleries in L.A. I loved every minute of my experience, but with The Great Recession hitting art markets hard, transitioning from intern to a paid position was unlikely. I had to pivot, and took a job in sales that was very fruitful and allowed me the opportunity to go back to school and become a nurse. 10-plus years later, I look back fondly on my experiences and wouldn't change one thing. Keep an open mind, live your truth and you will find your path. Don't get discouraged and enjoy the struggles— this is where you will grow and learn the most about yourself.

Looking back on graduation: Ten years ago, I never expected to be where I am now, but I am so grateful for the opportunities and life lessons I've learned along the way! YOU GOT THIS!


Name: Solida Nguon

Major at UCR: Sociology and Philosophy

Grad Year: 2008

Current Profession: Healthcare Worker

What advice/encouragement do you have for the class of 2020?: Don’t give up. This is a fearful time as you have to start paying back your loans, but stay positive and don’t be afraid to work from the bottom. You will achieve your goal. And don’t be afraid if you change your mind about what you want to do. Love life, because when you do life loves you back. And remember you guys ARE THE COVID CLASS. The class that saw the world go through some intense changes. Be proud of yourself. Congratulations fellow alumni.

Looking back on graduation: It was the best day ever. [I then] worked 10 years helping those with special needs, and then quit to travel the world for 2.5 years. Now I’m on my track to be on a nurse practitioner.


Name: Dr. Aldo Yanez Ruiz

Major at UCR: Political Science & History

Grad Year: 2009

Current Profession: Professor

What advice/encouragement do you have for the class of 2020?: Class of 2020: Congratulations and welcome to the UCR alumni family! I hope you feel proud of your grand accomplishments! I know that all of you are feeling uncertain about the immediate future. As part of the Class of 2009, I graduated in the middle of the worst economic recession since the 1930's. The future looked pretty stark back then too. It may seem difficult right now, but I am confident that you can overcome whatever obstacles you encounter post-graduation. After all, you have already conquered the many challenges you faced during your time at UCR. The best advice I can offer is that you should continue to work toward whatever goals you created for yourselves before current events put things on hold. If you planned on going to graduate school, take this opportunity to study for the required tests to improve your chances of admission. Volunteer or intern at that Fortune 500 company where you were hoping to land that paying job. Take an online class to earn a certificate that will help in your career path once things are "back to normal." Continue to work on yourselves and the changes you want to realize in your communities. Always move forward and you will eventually reach your destination! Lastly, I hope you all are staying safe and healthy! Remember to take care of yourselves and those you love. The Highlander community welcomes you and is here to provide support. Hope to see you all at upcoming alumni events! Congrats!