Building a working knowledge of campus

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September 2, 2010

11:57 PM

The little metal cart creaks through the rows of periodicals. A shuffle of pages is heard, and a giant black tome is thumped onto the shelf. The cart continues on its journey, rounding a corner, and Earl Gregg Swem Library’s very own Poorna Dharmasri ’13 can be seen picking up another impossibly dusty and dense volume.

He, like other work-study students at the College of William and Mary, not only has to juggle the 10 billion things all students seem to compulsively commit to, but a part-time job as well. This sounds like a terrible fate to resign oneself to, but it, like all other worries, is connected to the business of making money.
“As an out-of-state student, I have to do a lot to pay for tuition costs and things like that, and this was just another way and another option I had available that would reduce the number of loans I’d have to take [out], which I thought was fantastic,” Dharmasri said.

Even the employers at the College reap the financial benefits of the work-study program. The federal government reimburses universities for a portion of the work-study students’ wages, allowing departments to cut costs and continue development.

“It’s a budgetary concern, because with work-study students, it’s a reimbursement for us,” Crystal Boyce, Swem circulation student supervisor said. “I know circulation was able to recoup approximately $15,000 last year alone, and considering that the budget that the school gives us hasn’t changed, we have to recoup in our hiring processes in order to make sure that we’re still making money.”

With the economy still recovering, more and more students are turning to part-time employment to keep more green in their wallets. Jobs like those offered by Swem, or by the Phonathon, encourage better time management skills, work ethic, and a better understanding of the College and what it has to offer.

“In terms of working at the library, there are a lot of advantages that students get,” Boyce said. “I know from circulation that they get a lot of training in terms of call numbers and policies, so they have a much better grasp on what they can use the library for and the resources that are available. I know in other departments there are a lot of skills they can gain, so it’s a really good resume-fluffer.”

The same is true of Phonathon, another big employer of work-study students on campus. Students working there are in charge of keeping alumni, parents and sponsors of the College updated on campus news, as well as requesting donations.

“Working for Phonathon teaches you more than just classes,” Landon Rordam ‘10, assistant director of Phonathon said, “You learn to show up on time, and you learn what it’s like to be in a work place and deal with other people in a work kind of environment.”

With the heavy time commitment that already comes with classes and extra curriculars, work study employees must manage their priorities.

“Balancing work and school is remarkably like balancing any other extracurricular with classes,” Lindsey Hutchinson ’12, who works at Swem, said. “As long as you budget your time and understand your commitments, it’s rarely an issue. It helps that my beloved Swemployers are extraordinarily flexible; they understand we are all full-time students and part-time employees. I’ve always been able to plan my hours around classes, then adjust them to better fit my finals schedule.”

To accommodate to the hectic student lifestyle, work-study students have restricted hours, and academics are always given priority at both the library and the Phonathon.

“The biggest difference between our phonathon and other phonathons is how much we realize that this is a student job,” Rordam said. “Our employees’s number one priority is their schoolwork, and we have to be aware of that and work with that. I’d say that’s one of our biggest differences – we try to make it as easy as possible to work here while still being a William and Mary student and compulsively getting good grades.”

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