California State University, Fullerton

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Alumni Return to Talk About National Service Careers

Washington, D.C.-Based Grads Share Expertise With Students, Faculty and Staff

Feb. 21, 2013

T. Alan Comp '65 (B.A. history) was the first in his family to attend college. Today, as team coordinator of the Office of Surface Mining/Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) teams, he has supported the placement of 144 volunteers in yearlong, full-time placements in rural communities.

Jim Hirt '83 (B.A. business administration) grew up in Santa Ana, attended Golden West Community College prior to his transfer to Cal State Fullerton, and currently serves as executive vice president and chief executive officer for the American Society of Appraisers.

Both were invited to campus this week by the Cal State Fullerton Alumni Association to meet with students, faculty, staff and alumni to share their experiences. Comp and Hirt both currently work in Washington, D.C.

"Right after I graduated, I worked for Rockwell International for eight years," said Hirt. "I discovered that in an organization that big, with more than 10,000 employees, you rarely see the end product. I decided that I wanted to be closer to the end product."

After working with students in programs designed to keep them in school, Hirt knew he was passionate about working with volunteers. That led to his involvement with a number of nonprofits, including the Association of Poison Control Centers, the Public Risk Managers Association and the National Association of Mortgage Brokers.

"What I appreciated about Cal State Fullerton was the close relationship I had with the faculty," said Comp. "I left home at 17, went to community college for three years, and then Cal State Fullerton for three years. I didn't have much of a plan but some of my professors recommended that I apply to graduate school. With their assistance, I ended up receiving a full scholarship to the University of Delaware."

While working on his master's degree in history (and later a doctorate), Comp spent a summer working on a historic preservation project for the National Park Service ... and was hooked.

"I met amazing people in mining towns and discovered I enjoyed learning about the people and places in rural communities," he said. He eventually began working in western Pennsylvania — coal country — with interns, and then long-term volunteers, through VISTA to help improve the economic status of these communities. Today, Comp recruits members of the Cal State DC Scholars program to work with the organization.

Both alums encouraged students who are interested in careers in the nonprofit world to develop experience working with volunteers and focus on causes they believe in.

"I think some people join clubs and volunteer just to fill up a resume," said Comp. "I'm looking for people who can balance school, work and family life and still demonstrate an interest in an area that appeals to them ... and, of course, meets with my needs as an employer, such as working in outdoor activities, history, community organizing ...."

"I'm looking for students who have skills relevant to the job, who have leadership experience, who aren't afraid of public speaking, can write and aren't afraid to pick up the phone to call on an elected official," said Hirt. "We need people who have the skills to work with communities and get things done."

By: Valerie Orleans, 657-278-4540

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