EL PASO – Students working as staff at the University of Texas at El Paso are teaching their counterparts in Melbourne, Australia, a thing or two about working where they study.
Daniella Nevarez stands in front of 30 of her fellow students and begins to show them how to use a webpage-design program, as well as video and audio editing software. But this is not a class presentation. It’s her job.
According to the UTEP Budget office, Nevarez is one of 2,209 students employed at UTEP. Students work about 15 to 19 hours a week in an employment program common here and across the Unites States, but relatively new at Victoria University (VU) in Melbourne.
“When I am giving trainings, it’s as if I am teaching a class. It’s helping me a lot because it allows me to get in front of a group of people and not get nervous and explain things to them until they understand it,” Nevarez said.
Nevarez, who is majoring in education, has been employed by Instructional Support Services (ISS) at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“My cousin was also employed by ISS, and before I started school I took my resume to the department. I got hired the July before my freshman year,” Nevarez said.
Although she, and the other 45 students employed by the department are required to perform a large number of duties, such as providing Blackboard support to professors, trainings to students and technical support to professors who teach at the Undergraduate Learning Center, Nevarez said her job still allows her to focus on her studies.
“My lifestyle, my study time would change completely if I weren’t employed here. I probably wouldn’t give enough and important and time to school because I would be hurried about going to work outside of campus, and they aren’t as flexible with my student schedule,” she said.
That kind of experience sounds effective to Samana Dadash, Students and Staff Project Assistant at VU, where a pilot project is under way.
“Currently, we are about 12 months into the operation of Students as Staff program at VU. The Students as Staff program is encouraging current VU students to work at casual entry levels at VU while they’re studying,” Dadash said.
The Students as Staff program provides students with pre-employment training on customer service and information on VU policies and procedures.
“At this stage, there are approximately 800 students interested in working at VU. 220 students have completed the pre-employment workshop and 50 VU students have gained employment at VU in a variety of roles,” Dadash said. “As this is a pilot project, the project is constantly evolving.”
VU and UTEP have been working together to improve student employment programs at both universities. UTEP’s University Career Center and ISS has provided VU with support and resources to expand their employment program.
“Generally, VU has gained many insights into the benefits, models and potential roles of employing students on campus and have used these insights to promote the program at VU,” Dadash said. “One aspect that we have incorporated from the UTEP experience into our program at VU is preparing students for their role as a staff member. At VU this takes the form of the pre employment workshops which we require students to undertake prior to employment.”
Dr. George Barton, UTEP’s University Career Center director said having a student employment program at any university benefits not only the student by providing them an income, but the university as well. The Career Center hires students as Peer Career advisors that help students throughout the university find jobs, internships and provide career goal advice.
“For [the Career Center], we reach more people and in a lot of ways we do it more effectively. Students teaching students is a pretty nice way to go. If you have well prepared and well educated students and they are trained well to do their jobs. They can do a great job and students can relate to them a lot better than to me, for instance,” Barton said.
For student employees, Barton said having a job at the university may increase their chances of success.
“In the literature, over the years, we have found that students who have jobs on campus are more likely to succeed and graduate than students who don’t,” Barton said. “Those working for the university 15 to 20 hours a week do much better. They’re connected to the university. They feel a certain relationship with the institution outside of their classes.”
Dadash has received feedback from VU students to support this theory as well.
“The organization benefits the students [by]them gaining work experience, adding to their resume, preparing them for the workplace after graduation and gives them the opportunity to earn some income,” she said. “From the feedback gained from students employed on the campus, it is evident that students are more connected to the University life, exposed to opportunities for networking and students love the idea of studying and working in one place –going from work to classes or vise-versa.”
Had it not been for her job with ISS, Nevarez also believes she would not be able to focus as much on her studies because she would have to worry about going back and forth from school and work.
“I get out of classes and I come to work. So my hours fit in between my classes, so I don’t have to leave school so late and they work together,” Nevarez said. “My managers are very flexible with my hours. If I have an event I have to be at for class, they help me so that I can make up those hours. School is priority and they make it that way too.”
In the end, Nevarez said the most beneficial part of it all is the interaction and the knowledge she gains from her job, and said she would encourage any university that does not employ students to do so.
“For a lot of students, this is the only opportunity they have to work. It’s very important for some because it’s a way to pay their tuition. By providing us with jobs, the university is teaching us how to teach others,” Nevarez said. “I did not want to be here at UTEP, at the beginning, and if it wasn’t for this job, I wouldn’t feel as connected to the university as I do now.”