What will student employment look like in SuperBlanch?

BY MADELINE SKRAK ’18

Student workers, especially those who work in dining halls, are unsure how their jobs will change next year with the arrival of the new and improved Blanchard Community Center, colloquially known as SuperBlanch. Of the 70 percent of undergraduates who work on campus, “A little less than half are on work study,” said Janice Kane, the coordinator of student employment at the Career Development Center.

“Jobs are going to be the same for work study students, but we don’t know what the layout will be in the spring,” Kane said. “Next semester, freshmen will still be in Dining Services, but until we have a ‘sit-down’ with Dining to see what their needs are going to be — it’s hard to say.”

Jenny Watermill, associate director for internships and student employment at the CDC, said that based on department records, there were 1,221 students working 323 different positions on campus in fall 2016. Student worker jobs are their own campus ecosystem, Watermill said, based around the 81 offices, departments and centers. Library, Information and Technology Services, for example, has 10 departments. Just in the CDC office, there are 25 student employees.

“Every single department is responsible for their own jobs and budget; it’s not a central budget. If it was a central budget, we could determine based on needs of department, but it’s not like that. Everyone figures out what they need and what they spend,” said Kane.

Of the 1,221 jobs available on campus, Dining Services employs the most students. In fall 2016 the department employed 468 students (who may also have worked elsewhere on campus). Watermill said the top employers on campus are Dining Services, LITS, Athletics, the Weissman Center and Residential Life. 

“Dining imagines a completely equal playing field,” said Watermill, referring to the changes in student employment to come. “Next year is a bit of a moving target, but Dining is going to need a very similar number of hours from now to future, when [SuperBlanch is] up and running wholly.” Although the structure of the hours will be different, Watermill said that students will have the opportunity to work more hours. 

Both Watermill and Kane emphasized that student employment in the fall will be run similarly, although Watermill anticipates that the school will eliminate the requirement for first-years to work in Dining Services.

“We’ll be able to lift the requirement at that time, but next year is a bit of a challenge which we’re working on, but haven’t fully solved,” she said. 

The spring remains a bit of a mystery. Applications for dining positions will be up by the end of this summer, Watermill said. 

“Then we’ll have a clear picture of how it will be and then many departments will push the jobs to students when they get back [in September]. The spring will be a transition and will lose some hours, but we don’t yet know what the solution will be. We will still have opportunities and options for jobs,” said Watermill. 

This year, the cap to student working hours was dropped altogether. Watermill added, “If we reduce hours, we’ll increase them elsewhere.” 

According to Watermill, it’s a “reasonable possibility between dining jobs reducing in numbers, but not in hours.” Because minimum wage is rising, Watermill supposes that [the number of] jobs will reduce over time anyway. 

“We do a lot of assessment on how many people need jobs or have an interest in them. If there’s a mismatch with that reality and college offering, we look at policy shifts,” she said. 

Last year, jobs were made first available to students on work study. Capping student hours was thought to prevent students from overworking themselves with too many jobs.

In response to student worries, Watermill said, “We’re not going to say ‘too bad you lost your hours,’ we’ll help you figure it out.”

The CDC took on student employment in 1999 and manages JobX, which is the 

ment on campus. Employing students has become integral in the last couple of years with the Lynk curriculum to career initiative, which emphasizes building students’ resumes and practicing the skills necessary for future jobs and internships. In the last six years, the department has required job applicants to submit resumes and has tried to get more first years in their office in addition to upperclassmen. 

“Student employment is a big educational piece which has really changed over the years,” said Kane. 

In the dining halls, student workers seem unsure where they stand for next year’s job positions. 

Micaela Pierce ’20, who works in Prospect, said that she hasn’t received a lot of information about what the future will hold for dining services workers. 

“I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions,” Pierce sad.  

Pierce anticipates that because SuperBlanch doesn’t open until the spring, “scheduling might get messed up,” and isn’t sure if she will keep working in Dining Services or try to get another job on campus. Pierce feels that the student workers workwell with the rest of the staff on campus and hopes that SuperBlanch won’t take the homey feeling away that she feels in the present dining hall setup. 

Grace Wheeler ’18, who works at Uncommon Grounds, knows that the cafe will close down for the next academic year while a new coffee and bar area is constructed, but has been told that she’ll be a Blanchard cashier instead. 

“I’m sad that the coffee bar is closing, because I love that job,” Wheeler said. “I’m glad we won’t be losing our hours though, I hope to get equivalent or more hours as a cashier than I am as a barista.” 

Anna Rzchowski ’18 has worked in Dining Services and is curious whether there will be fewer positions, because “Dining Services jobs are kind of the main work study job for first-year students. I hope they can still provide enough work-study positions on campus, because that is a substantial part of financial aid for many students.”

Another Prospect worker,  Eraj Cantamantu-Koomson ’20, said she understands that SuperBlanch might take away people’s chances of getting jobs in Dining Services next spring. 

“I think it will be a problem if there are fewer jobs. I don’t personally see where else they would go really,” Cantamantu-Koomson said. 

Though SuperBlanch may present a challenge, the CDC is confident that the hours student workers and other campus employees need can stay consistent. 

Just because student jobs will change next year, doesn’t mean they are any less important to keep the campus moving forward, Watermill said. 

“Student workers are totally necessary to keep the school functioning,” said Watermill. “They’re essential for our work.” 

Mount Holyoke News

Mount Holyoke News , Blanchard Campus Center, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA, 01075