Shutdown Stories

Shutdown Stories: Post-grad plans put on hold until federal budget passes

Last summer, Halle Lambeau translated her passion for conservation biology into work with the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico. She's graduating this spring and has applied to similar jobs, but the partial government shutdown has made her job hunt difficult.  

As the semester begins and the federal government enters its 32nd day of a record-long partial shutdown, The Daily Cardinal is bringing you stories about what the shutdown looks like on campus and around the community. Certain government agencies have been closed since Dec. 22 and will only reopen once congress and President Trump can reach a compromise over a $5 billion border wall. 

Halle Lambeau checks the USAJobs website daily. But the government shutdown is making her job search difficult. 

While the website has remained operational during the last 32 days of the partial government shutdown, some of the agencies that post jobs there — like the National Forest Service and the National Park System where Lambeau was hoping to work after she graduates this spring — will stay shuttered until Congress can compromise with President Trump over the fate of a $5 billion border wall.

“It definitely has me scrambling a little, since I am graduating in May, and we all want a job,” Lambeau said. “I mean, since I would primarily want a job with the federal government, it makes me stressed out about the future of how that’s going to play out.”

Lambeau is a senior studying conservation biology. For the past three years, she’s worked in Ellen Damschen’s botany lab on campus, where she spends four to 10 hours a week drying plant samples and entering data. 

After Lambeau graduates, she was hoping she’d end up in one of the 50 jobs she’s applied for this winter. All of those jobs were with federal agencies that are currently closed.

“The USAJobs website is up and running, but no job progress has moved at all, at least for what I applied for,” Lambeau said. “Now is when contacts start getting made for interviews, and it’s kind of worrying.”

Even if these agencies were able to process job applications, they would be unable to plan their seasonal hires until their annual funding is approved in the federal budget.

“A lot of agencies don’t know their budget yet, so they don’t know if they’ll have space for positions like mine, which are temporary,” Lambeau said. “It’s been frustrating even finding a job at this time.”

Lambeau has worked for federal agencies before. Last summer, she was stationed in New Mexico, where she surveyed endangered birds for the Bureau of Land Reclamation. 

Since her freshman year, Lambeau has known she’s wanted to work in an environmental field. If all goes as planned, she’ll spend the summer in the Pacific Northwest working with endangered owls. 

But even in the most localized segments of the environmental sector, the federal government remains entwined through its participation in research funding, regulation and land management. During a shutdown, this relationship means disruptions in research grant cycles, lapses in environmental monitoring and public land closures. 

And, of course, soon-to-be-graduates hoping to find work with the federal government may have to look for jobs elsewhere. 

According to the last survey conducted by the College of Letters and Science, which houses Lambeau’s conservation biology major, 32 percent of students who graduated with degrees in the natural sciences ended up working in the public sector. 

“It’s definitely concerning, and I’m someone who has a lot of faith and pride in what the federal government does,” Lambeau said. “I think it’s something I really want to do with my job and my future career.”

*The shutdown has affected students, faculty and community members who are employed by the federal government. For those groups — or anyone experiencing financial insecurity — there are resources available on campus like The Open Seat, UHS mental health services and free lunch. 

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