Earn & Learn
Mary Falowo ’16 maintains an unwaveringly calm demeanor as she talks you through the most frustrating of computer problems. It’s one of the many skills she’s developed as a student employee in the information technology (IT) department.
The communications and journalism major aspires to become a documentary filmmaker, but four years of working in IT opened another door she didn’t anticipate.
“I can also see myself working as an IT systems manager,” she says. Falowo already has a taste of what management is like. She was promoted to student lead after two years on the job and now trains other IT students.
“Working in IT has made me well-rounded,” she says. “It’s taught me to think on my feet and be accommodating. I find myself troubleshooting wherever I go.”
Falowo and her IT peers are experiencing the University’s intentional shift to give students more meaningful work experiences. Even the name is different — student employment instead of work-study — to reflect this shift.
“We wanted to place the focus on the job and encourage student workers to step up and perform at a very professional level,” says Kathleen Czech, assistant director of financial literacy and student employment. “Every campus position is an opportunity for students to increase their skills for the future.”
CREATING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
John Jeries, chief information officer, was an early adopter in developing a deeper student experience. When he first came to St. Kate’s in 2003, IT had one student worker, largely responsible for paperwork and filing. Today, 35–40 students are busy with technical work, including help desk support from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week.
“They provide our community with much needed technology and support,” he says. “At the same time, our student employees become more proficient and comfortable with technology, and use it more effectively in their studies and, more importantly, after they graduate.”
That was certainly the case for Chi Huynh ’10, a senior financial analyst for Ecolab. While her current job — based in Singapore, by the way — is directly related
to her finance major, that’s not how she initially got her foot in the door.
“Ecolab recruited me straight out of college,” she explains. “The company put me on the IT team doing process improvement because of my IT experience at St. Kate’s Academic Resource Center.” In her first year at Ecolab, she managed a major computer replacement and implementation project for 400 employees. “It was very similar to what I did at St. Kate’s, helping professors and students adapt to a new system and software,” says Huynh, who picked up other valuable skills as a student employee with International Admission.
Leadership development in campus employment is especially pivotal for student workers.
“It changes the dynamic of their relationship with faculty,” says Jeries. “As a student, you depend on faculty to give you knowledge. But then you get into a work situation where your teacher is asking you for help — that is a really powerful experience.”
DEVELOPING CRITICAL SOFT SKILLS
While classroom or industry-specific knowledge and skills are important in the job market, people skills often carry as much weight. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 67 percent of employers look for verbal communication skills and over 60 percent look for interpersonal skills.
Business major LaShay Holt ’17 knows this all too well.
A self-described introvert, Holt admits to feeling disconnected her first two years on campus. This changed last summer when she met Mark Johnson, director of Public Safety — arguably one of St. Kate’s biggest extroverts. He hired her for a newly developed student community service officer position.
“This job has pushed me out of my shell, because there are people who need my help, and being able to help them helps me,” says Holt.
Student officers focus on locking and unlocking doors; escorting students, staff or faculty upon request; and assisting with emergencies, like guiding paramedics to correct locations. They also take their meal breaks in the cafeteria, while in uniform, as a way to put a friendly face to public safety officers in general.
“I tell LaShay and the other community service officers to ‘Go out there like you’re running for sheriff — shake hands and kiss babies. Be visible, be friendly and let them know you’re here to help,’” Johnson says.
This approach paid off. Just three months after the program was implemented last January, positive comments showed up in St. Kate’s annual student survey. The program has clearly made an impact on Holt as well.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like it,” she says. “I thought it was just a way to make money. But it’s been fun. I can answer so many more questions about St. Kate’s now that I’m working here.”
Read about the students behind St. Kate’s successful Money Management program.