Dear Campus Community,
As President Weinberg wrote two weeks ago, we are putting together a process to take a look at student employment on campus. Student employment is an important part of the educational mission of the University. I am excited to engage students and staff in a process to examine our practices, identify what is working, where we are struggling, and to create a positive path forward.
We provide student employment opportunities for two reasons that are core to student education. First, student employment provides an income source for many students on campus who need and want it. Second, on-campus employment adds to the education of students by helping students develop meaningful relationships with staff and faculty while acquiring work-place skills that help students compete for internships, jobs, and graduate programs.
Now is a good moment to do this work. Over the last few years, Denison has made financial accessibility and career exploration top priorities and we have made some good progress. Denison was just named the 10th best college in the country for financial aid by the Princeton Review, and we continue to grow and expand career exploration and preparation programs through The Knowlton Center. But we can always do better and one important area of opportunity is student employment. This fall, a number of issues have surfaced, some related to COVID and some that are more general to the overall student employment experience. We need to address the issues that students have raised, and we have the opportunity to do so while also advancing the important work around affordability and career preparation and launch.
This needs to be a true partnership between students and staff. Students have lots of experiences and knowledge about what is working and not working. And staff, especially staff who have reputations as being good supervisors of students, also know a lot about what is working and where we have opportunities to improve. Melanie Murphy from the Knowlton Center is going to help organize the effort. Our current plan is for this to be co-led by students and staff. A lot of students have volunteered to be part of the effort. The first meeting will be next week.
Based on what we have already heard from students and staff who supervise student employees, here are some topics that I am going to propose to the group:
- Examine current state so we have a good understanding of student employment across departments on campus.
- Develop a vision for student employment and create a more organized and systematic student employment program.
- Create a helpful support structure for student employees, including guidance on financial aid and tax questions, and pathways for conflict resolution
- Ensure availability of campus employment for international students.
- Focus on making sure there is deep educational value and that student employment helps students develop personal and professional pathways.
An immediate change. In putting this process together, a number of students and staff have made a recommendation that we are going to go ahead and implement. If any student has to go into quarantine or isolation because of COVID, Denison will use institutional funds to continue to pay their student employment wages. This will be retroactive for any student who has already been in quarantine or isolation this semester.
In my short time at Denison, I have been impressed by the great ideas students have for moving Denison forward and the responsiveness of the college to student concerns. I am excited to see this work start. It's a way we can work together to enhance the educational experience and outcomes for our students.
All my best,