Work is a four letter word, but not the kind our mothers and fathers used to scold us for using. The people of Southern Illinois are not afraid to work. Hard work will always produce results and fruit does not fall far from the tree. I see it every day.
I have witnessed the way students work from two perspectives, the first is developed from data. Our University spends about 3.00% of total State-appropriated staff pay on student workers. That sounds small, but it is 3 times the State average for universities. We lead the state in student worker spending, top of the heap. We have a tradition of it and it should be doubled.
Our students clean floors, assist with accounting processes and help with public relations. They design and build, file and type, write and count, keep track of things, and see to it that the university keeps going. They become part of the community through this paid employment that contributes to the well being of Our University, and most importantly, they contribute to the culmination of their own education. This is a great way to go through school. What a one-two punch.
The second perspective is a personal one. A student told me the other day that they felt a bit stressed because they said, “I have to work while going to school.” I agreed, it’s challenging, but told them to take a different view of the matter. Think to yourself, “I get to work while I am going to school. This allows me to build life skills to understand the importance of cooperation and teamwork, to become part of something that is bigger than me . . . to know how to work.”
Some people don’t know how to work. The special power of working on campus, even if the pay may not be as good in some cases as off campus employment, is the student becomes part of the university team. I have watched for years as clerical and administrative staff have encouraged students to do well in class, motivated them to commit themselves to their studies, asked to see their grades, on some occasions, and witnessed university employees help students with assignments–to my great joy.
I am not talking about faculty and advisers, or technical staff whose job it is or might be. I am talking about what an old man like me would call a secretary or a receptionist becoming part of a student’s life, part of a student’s educational team, and in so doing, part of the solution to Our University’s ability to retain students.
And if the students are part of the student worker budget, not only do they help themselves, they help other students by helping the university. This is not differential equations, or rocket science; rather, this is Our University at work, in a region of people that work, and know how to work well.
Studies show over and over again that working 12 to 15 hours a week actually increases the quality of the student experience and their ability to do succeed in school. Our University would be well advised to reinforce the importance of hard work as a positive extension of service and education, not a burden. High personal expectations and toil make us, those around us, and the places we inhabit, better.