c/o Alexandra Turtil, Assistant Photo Editor

c/o Alexandra Turtil, Assistant Photo Editor

The Student Employment Office moved from the Financial Aid Office to the Gordon Career Center on July 1 to facilitate the promotion of student employment in conjunction with career skill-building opportunities.

The move comes after several years of conversations between the Financial Aid Office and the Gordon Career Center about how to best support students in their employment efforts. While Financial Aid initially oversaw student employment because of federal work-study designations, students’ employment needs have expanded beyond this capacity.

“Aligning student employment with the Gordon Career Center, under the division of Academic Affairs, was largely born out of a growing desire from students, faculty, and staff for more structure and support to facilitate undergraduate student employment, the changing needs of our students and campus community, and a recognition of the impactful role employment plays in a student’s overall Wesleyan experience,” Associate Director for Student Employment Allison Soden wrote in an email to The Argus.

The Career Center’s resources will strengthen the Student Employment Office’s ability to connect students with campus job opportunities and support them in those jobs, according to Soden.

Director of Financial Aid Robert Coughlin also highlighted the benefits of moving Student Employment to the Career Center.

“Having student employment reside under the Career Center will enable those staff members with employment expertise to better advise students as they pursue positions, apply for jobs, achieve successful outcomes, and build their work portfolios,” Coughlin wrote in an email to The Argus. “This guidance will improve the overall student work experience, all while placing students in a better position when they enter the job market following Wesleyan.”

President Michael Roth ’78 explained that the change will consolidate the job search process, both on-campus and career-related.

“Putting the jobs at the Career Center made a certain intuitive sense,” Roth said. “We are trying to—and do— successfully create more jobs that have academic components to them. I hope we can continue to build on this, to encourage faculty to hire students as research assistants so they get the money they need while also learning some skills.”

Coughlin reiterated that the Career Center is better equipped to meet the needs of the Student Employment Office than the Financial Aid Office. Financial Aid still oversees the federal work-study program, but Student Employment is now more centralized under the umbrella of the Career Center.

“When the Financial Aid Office began discussion in 2018 of the need from a federal compliance perspective to create a platform to host all student employment position descriptions (via Handshake), other critical student employment matters surfaced: advising on the job search process, managing supervisor/supervisee expectations, and addressing other personnel matters,” Coughlin wrote. “We did not feel that the Financial Aid Office was the appropriate place to address these critical needs, nor did the Financial Aid Office have the appropriate staffing to address these needs. The pandemic brought all of these issues to the forefront.” 

Director of Operations for the Gordon Career Center Rachel Munafo, who works closely with Soden on student employment, explained that the COVID-19 pandemic raised new challenges for student employment, resulting in the creation of a new role: Associate Director for Student Employment.

“Coupled with the challenges and concerns students raised about finding job opportunities, the University recognized the need for dedicated resources and in moving student employment to the career center created a new, full-time associate director position dedicated to this area,” Munafo wrote in an email to The Argus.

The position permits a centralized staff member to oversee the numerous aspects of student employment and develop strategies for ensuring that student employment plays a positive role in creating valuable educational and co-curricular experiences for students.

“The student employment experience has taken on greater importance,” Coughlin wrote. “The creation of the Associate Director of Student Employment position is [a] recognition of these growing needs, and represents the university’s commitment to improving the student employment experience.”

As Associate Director for Student Employment, Soden works with students and hiring managers on both the application and hiring sides of the employment process. She also supports students once they’ve been hired and aims to serve as a resource for managers in overseeing student workers.

“Working closely with both groups allows me to support their individual needs, identify any challenges, create connections between the two groups, and develop both short and long-term strategic goals to better support the campus community,” Soden wrote.

Soden has been collaborating with campus and local employers to create intentional job descriptions that pertain to building skills, gaining mentorship, and expanding learning competencies.

“As I work with hiring managers to develop position descriptions and post job opportunities on Handshake, I’m also having conversations about the skills and qualities student employees can offer as well as what types of experience students are looking to build,” Soden wrote. “I look forward to forging stronger relationships with campus employers in order to continually develop more robust opportunities for student employment.”

Part of Soden’s responsibility is promoting the value of campus jobs, especially since work experience during college can help students post-graduation.

“Campus jobs can offer students financial stability, as well as opportunities to further explore academic and career-related interests,” Munafo wrote. “These experiences often foster meaningful connections between faculty, staff, and students and can provide another avenue for personal and professional development, mentorship. Many departments count on student employees to help them shape and carry out their work and enrich the workplace for faculty and staff.” 

Student Employment also plans to expand and develop more experiential learning opportunities and streamlined processes for campus jobs. The office is currently working on gathering more voices for that process.

“In addition to fall hiring, our immediate focus is on developing an active working group of faculty, staff, and students (including representatives from the Financial Aid Office, Payroll, Equity & Inclusion, and International Student Services) to work collaboratively on developing standardized policies, systems, and processes for student employment that promote fair and equitable hiring practices,” Munafo wrote.

The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) is also involved in promoting Student Employment’s role on campus 

“Last spring, the WSA passed a resolution to establish the Student Employment Advisory Committee (SEAC), a permanent subcommittee of the Student Life Committee in recognition that student employment requires structur[al] and institutional attention and support and to emphasize that student employment is an ‘integral part’ of the Wesleyan experience for many students,” Munafo wrote. 

The committee is co-chaired by Munafo and WSA Senator Ruby Clarke ’24, who stressed the importance of employment for students on campus.

“Students rely on [employment] in order to have enough money to actually pay for tuition, or in some cases, pay for all those things that college doesn’t cost on paper but costs in real life,” Clarke said. “Also, just being able to have any sort of access to income during these months when people aren’t back at home where they have their normal jobs.”

Clarke explained that the creation of the advisory committee signifies a shift towards prioritizing campus employment for students.

“It’s really important that Wesleyan is able to have a space where they pay attention critically to what’s going on on campus,” Clarke said. “Previously there hasn’t been much/any consistent data collection over any period of years, and so this year sort of marks the beginning of Wesleyan having a bit of space for making sure we’re actually valuing our student employees by tracking them.”

Soden emphasized her dedication to supporting students and the accessibility of the Student Employment Office. 

“I encourage students who are seeking campus employment to schedule an advising appointment to meet with me for individualized guidance and support,” Soden wrote. “Students can also reach out to us via email if they have any questions or need assistance [at] studentemployment@wesleyan.edu.

Rachel Wachman can be reached at rwachman@wesleyan.edu.

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