Working on campus benefits students, university

Marlena Chertock

FEB. 18, 2011

Federal Work Study Disparity at Elon University. The red section represents 468 students employed through FWS. The blue section represents 1,344 students eligible for FWS. Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

Sophomore Joy Debolt works three jobs, at Residence Life (ResLife), America Reads and the West Area office, takes 18 credits per semester and still finds free time for herself and friends.

Debolt is one of the hundreds of Elon University students who hold positions on campus through the Federal Work Study program, which is awarded to students who need to work on campus and are then paid according to the hours they work. The awards vary based on the amount of need, though students are never guaranteed a job, according to the Student Employment page on Elon’s website.

Institutional Work Study, also called Elon Work Study, is another program similar to Federal Work Study but need is not a factor in determining eligibility, according to the website.

“When a student is (in the) Federal Work Study Program, three quarters of their pay comes from the federal government and one quarter from Elon,” said Patrick Murphy, director of financial planning. “When a student is Institutional Work Study, all the pay is from Elon.”

Debolt first started working on campus because her mom told her she had to use her own spending money in college. She holds three jobs, takes a full-course load of classes, is involved in the service sorority Alpha Phi Omega, volunteers and has time to relax.

When students juggle jobs, class, clubs and other activities, organization is necessary, according to Debolt. Having a calendar or planner is key, she said.

“If I notice that I have enough time to watch five TV shows in one night, I get a job,” Debolt said. “That’s kind of my philosophy. Not that I don’t like free time.”

Students often complain they don’t have time to work in the day but there are jobs on campus for morning, day and night shifts, Debolt said.

There are many students who work in the library at night, such as senior Justin Berger, who has worked at Belk Library since he was a sophomore.

Students who have worked the most semesters at Belk are able to choose the shifts they want first. It is similar to registration, Berger said.

“It’s unfortunate for (some students) because we haven’t hired anybody since I believe Fall 2009 due to budget cuts,” senior Justin Berger said. “That means that no new people have come aboard and so the people that have been there have been stuck in the same pecking order. I try to help those people out by selecting fewer hours.”

Campus Recreation, Media Services and ResLife are the organizations that employ the most students, according to Renie Thompson, student payroll specialist.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

This academic year student workers have submitted a total of 2,157 work agreements, Thompson said. This number includes both Federal Work Study and Institutional Work Study agreements, as well as students who hold multiple jobs, said Nancy Ward, financial planning data coordinator.

Student workers are necessary for the university to function and the jobs help students to be employed locally, Thompson said.

“(Student employment) is a win-win for the university and the students,” Thompson said.

Benefits for students include earning spending money, learning about the university from a different viewpoint, learning to budget their time and developing good employee skills, according to Ward.

Gaining interview skills is also a benefit stemming from the experience of applying for jobs, Debolt said.

After applying and interviewing for numerous positions, Debolt said she feels more comfortable with the process. She realized all employers ask similar questions.

“You can build your resume, use those skills elsewhere, work up, learn more about what you like and what you’re looking for,” Debolt said.

Applicants are often chosen based on relevant work experience, leadership experience, how well they work in teams, the interview and their level of confidence, enthusiasm and dedication, said sophomore Katie Li, who works at Campus Recreation.

Student workers help fill in lunch hour coverage but also help with day-to-day office duties, Ward said. The financial planning office uses student workers for help with the telephones, processing of incoming mail, stuffing mailings from the office and waiting on customers at the counter.

“The university would not function without our student workers,” Ward said.


To see the interactive graph visit Federal Work Study Disparity at Elon University.

Jobs on campus

  • Mail Center

Fifteen students currently work at the mail center. About half of the workers are on Federal Work Study, according to Mail Center Supervisor Chuck Sparks.

Students sometimes use up their Federal Work Study in the middle of the year so Sparks switches them over to Institutional, he said.

If students have ever worked in retail or have customer service experience it helps students who work at the mail desk, Sparks said. There is also heavy lifting involved in some of the work.

“I try to get as many guys as I do girls because we have a lot of lifting in here,” Sparks said. “I don’t discriminate but I at least try to balance it out. We match the person to the task. We have student workers do everything the staff does.”

Chuck Sparks Mail Center Supervisor talks about hiring student workers and the type of work done in the Mail Center.

  • Writing Center

Senior Thomas Duncan also makes minimum wage at the Writing Center. He is a consultant and helps students improve their writing assignments.

“I’ll help them with citations, organizing their paper, thesis, introduction, anything,” he said. “I like the job, it’s good hours. I’m a part-time student so I only take two classes so I have a lot of time. Plus I really like reading other people’s work because it helps my own writing.”

Students have to take a workshop class in the English department to get the job. Mostly English majors work at the Writing Center.

Duncan explains why he works as a consultant in the Writing Center.

  • Campus Rec

Sophomore Katie Li talks about why she works at Campus Rec.

Li talks about the skills she gains from working at Campus Rec.

  • Moseley Student Center

Sophomore Andrew Sevigny explains why he works in the Moseley Student Center.

  • Belk Library

Senior Justin Berger describes what he does at Belk Library.

  • Residence Life

There are two rounds of interviews, shadowing and training for becoming a Resident Assistant.

“The first is a group interview, where all potential RAs are given activities they have to complete together,” sophomore Joy Debolt said. “They’re looking for who’s a leader. They want to see how you would interact with resident staff. The second round of interviews is more of a one on one interview with Resident Life staff members. It’s definitely a long application.”


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About Marlena Chertock

Marlena Chertock's first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Marketplace, and WTOP. Her poems and fiction has appeared in The Deaf Poets Society, Moonsick Magazine, and Paper Darts.

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