Student Employees Bring Their 'A' Game
By Pete Fairbairn
Bowling Green State University’s student employees represent the very best of the University through their hard work, dedication and impressive skills. They generate significant funding to help defray educational costs while many play critical roles in the University’s operations. Still others contribute to the success of area employers. But there’s even more to it as it ties into BGSU’s core mission, according to Student Employment Services Director Dawn Frieson.
“I think the greatest benefit to our students in the long run are the many opportunities for 'real-world' experiences,” Frieson said. “These part-time jobs teach lifelong skills that help our student employees succeed in their future careers and in life."
BGSU’s student workforce during the pandemic
Each year on average, about 17-18% of the student population is employed on campus in part-time positions. This represents around 3,500 student employees in widely varying roles. Most recently, student employees have been working in 149 departments and reporting to 435 supervisors.
The pandemic has impacted student employment at BGSU in many unforeseen ways, including the creation of some entirely new job descriptions. On campus, for example, the University has hired a significant number of students as course assistants, who help teaching professors with their online-only and hybrid courses. These students set up online class video systems, post course materials online, and assist faculty with other digital course needs. BGSU has also hired a number of students to assist with various public health initiatives, such as delivering food to quarantined students, assisting staff with facial covering and social distancing policies, and cleaning and sanitizing public spaces.
Off campus, many of the jobs that students were doing prior to the pandemic are now in greater demand. Looking at the shipping industry, for example, you’ll find Amazon, UPS and FedEx all have large facilities within driving distance of campus that are almost always hiring. Changes in the grocery and restaurant sectors have increased demand for grocers, curbside pickup and food delivery workers. Demand for home improvement supplies has been strong throughout the COVID-19 crisis, boosting the need for workers throughout 2020 and into this year at the two Home Depots in Wood County, the Lowes in Wood County and the Home Depot distribution center just over the border in Hancock County.
Unique job descriptions
Student employees may choose from a large number of mission-critical roles in areas such as clerical work, and grounds and building maintenance. There are also opportunities to participate in major-specific or interest-specific roles that are less well-known, including:
- Arthropod Husbandry Specialist — An undergraduate research assistant position responsible for maintenance of, and research on, a colony of whip spiders.
- Android App Vetting Programmer — As the name suggests this role is responsible for programming and testing Android applications.
- Inorganic Chemistry Research Assistant — This student focuses on the fabrication of semiconductor nanocrystals.
- Sustainability Assistant Intern — The students coordinates between agencies on campus to promote and facilitate the University’s many green and sustainable programs.
According to Student Employment Coordinator Matthew Ausderan, there is a wide range of possibilities to fit virtually every interest.
“In total, we have around 870 unique job descriptions across campus,” Ausderan said. “I believe if you want to work on campus and are willing to put in the effort, there’s something here for you.”
A win-win-win at BGSU Dining
A great example of synergies that often ensue between student employees, their supervisors and the constituencies they serve can be found at BGSU Dining, which is managed by BGSU partner Chartwells and employs around 600 students each year.
Elana Felber ’23 is from Twinsburg, Ohio, and is majoring in education with a focus in inclusive early childhood education.
“I came to college and I had a bunch of food allergies and intolerances, and I knew that I needed to go right to dining services and say, ‘Hey these are the things that I can't eat,’” Felber recalled.
To her surprise, BGSU Dining personnel immediately offered to work with her to accommodate her very specific dietary needs. “I was a little nervous to come to BGSU, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions ever because of the accommodations that the University is committed to providing,” Felber said.
The warm welcome and responsiveness to her dietary requirements was a real game changer, and Felber wanted to make sure other BGSU students with similar issues were aware of their options. She approached Paige Wagner, a dietitian and Teaching Kitchen coordinator with BGSU Dining, with the idea of a new customer-facing staff position. Wagner was receptive to the proposal, which led in time to the creation of a new job description entitled ‘food allergy student ambassador.’
“Elana joined our team in this new position, and she came running full force with innovative ideas, creative ways to reach out to students, marketing ideas and more,” Wagner said. “It is safe to say that she has created a lasting impact on our campus and without her we would not be able to provide our food allergy students with the best support system possible.”
While a win-win for Felber and BGSU Dining, the positive impact on many others in the campus community will remain long after Felber graduates, with a new, dedicated position at BGSU Dining that helps to create an environment that's inclusive for the students on campus with food allergies, intolerances or medical diets.
“This job opportunity has impacted me in so many ways and built my confidence in a professional role with leadership responsibilities,” Felber said. “Food allergies can cause people to feel divided and separated from society, but my job and my boss Paige have allowed me to feel connected and in turn, allowed me to empower myself and help others take control of their food allergies.”
Supporting the University’s core mission
In her role as director of SES, Frieson has witnessed many success stories of students and employers working together to support each other, various colleges and departments, area businesses and the University’s core mission to serve the public good.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of our student employees to BGSU’s day-to-day operations,” Frieson said. “Not only that, but I believe what our students take away experientially from these part-time jobs is of great value beyond the immediate financial compensation. The collaboration, creativity and commitment to get the job done with excellence is a great complement to what happens in our classrooms.”