Whether they are reshelving books at the library, serving their peers in the dining halls or setting up for sporting events, student workers are a visible and essential part of campus life. Upwards of 70 percent of the student body is employed on campus, and this fall, the College filled 1,835 job openings spread across 80 departments and offices. The largest student employers are, in order, the Department of Athletics, Dining Services, the Center for Learning and Teaching, Admissions and the Library.
Students apply for most on-campus jobs online through the Student Employment Office (SEO) website. However, some departments, including Athletics, do most of their hiring internally.
“The majority of students that work at our games are connected with the coaches that oversee our game management operations for each sport,” wrote Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan in an email to the Orient. “For example, our men’s basketball assistant coach oversees our men’s soccer game management, and the students that chase balls at the games are members of our men’s basketball team. This isn’t always the case, but it is our most consistent approach.”
Ryan added that he also reaches out to College House leaders in the beginning of the year to request student workers and has accepted students who contact him directly with an interest in working at various athletic events.
First Year Job Placement
When first years arrive on campus, they have two options for finding a job: applying directly to job postings on the SEO website, or using the First Year Job Placement Program.
While an individual search could yield more flexibility, many job openings are already filled by the time first years are ready to start looking for employment. The First Year Job Placement Program offers less control but more stability. Incoming students answer survey questions about their skills and experience and agree to accept whatever position the SEO assigns them. Most of these jobs are in Dining Services.
The SEO tries to match students’ skills to potential jobs, but placements are mainly determined by the order in which students submit their applications and whether or not they receive financial aid.
Not every student who enters the placement program receives a job.
“This year we were able to offer positions to everybody who participated in the process,” said Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Student Employment Sarah Paul. “That doesn’t happen every year. Typically we run out of openings and there are certain students on the list that don’t get a placement.”
Types of work
Student work varies greatly from department to department, which suits the different interests of student workers, according to Paul.
“[Some] students want to have professional development opportunities, to be able to work in positions that allow them to move forward professionally after Bowdoin, and some students want to have positions where they can just kind of come, be in a job for a period of time and move on,” she said.
Sam Canales ’15 works for athletics as a ball boy for women’s soccer in the fall, and in the winter he runs the game clock and scoreboard for men’s hockey. Canales said that the jobs rarely feel like a burden to him.
“It doesn’t really feel like I’m at work,” he said. “Because a lot of times I would have gone to the games anyway and I’m working with a lot of my friends, so it makes it easier.”
In the dining halls, shifts are busy and students are almost always hard at work.
“You have to admit that dining jobs are very different than being the [card swiper] at [The Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness],” said Dining Services Associate Director of Operations Michele Gaillard. “I see them and they have their studying or their reading or whatever, and that’s not the dining jobs. For some kids that’s absolutely a deal breaker because they have to study or they don’t want to work the way our students work.”
Dining hall managers like Carolina Deifelt Streese ’16 said that even as students move up in rank in Dining Services, the workload and the length of shifts do not decrease. Not only do managers supervise other student employees, they also monitor the dining area and constantly evaluate what needs to be replaced and restocked. Manager shifts also include a lot of clean-up, and run longer than many other shifts.
“My brunch shift has run to six and a half hours during the week that Thorne was closed and we had to serve brunch to everybody,” said Deifelt Streese. “Other jobs you can negotiate your shift a little bit but these—you need to be here for the entire [shift].”
Other campus jobs require a certain level of training or background experience.
Students must apply to become writing assistant’s at the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT), for instance, and enroll in an education course that teaches them the skills necessary for being a successful tutor.
Noorissa Khoja ’15 works as a quantitative reasoning tutor at the CLT, helping students to understand concepts or complete problem sets for economics and math courses. Each night presents a different set of challenges for Khoja based on what students need help with, but she said that her work is very rewarding.
“I really enjoy teaching others,” Khoja said. “I think it’s cool because I learn a lot of things too and figure out what I know and don’t know about my [economics] major, which is kind of interesting.”
How pay is determined
In Maine, the hourly minimum wage is $7.50 per hour, but student workers at Bowdoin are paid no less than $7.75 per hour. Two main factors determine how much a student gets paid.
The first is how long they have worked in their department. Students who stay with the same employer are typically rewarded with small pay increases at the end of each semester or year.
The second factor is the level of technical skill and knowledge required for the jobs.
The SEO has developed five pay bands—A, B, C, D and E—for starting salaries based on student skill level, level of independence necessary and task complexity. The breakdowns for these levels can be found on the SEO website.
The SEO supports supervisors in determining pay grades for the jobs they post.
“Student positions that require more technical skills, like having specific video editing skills or information technology or specific research knowledge, that’s where you see the pay scale increasing,” said Paul. “The other piece is level of independence in terms of [supervision required] to accomplish the job duties.”
According Ryan, all jobs in the athletics department fall into pay grade A—the lowest paying category. Not many students with jobs in the department are upset by their low hourly wages.
“It’s very mindless labor and I don’t mind doing it so I think I’m fairly compensated for it,” said Canales.
For others, pay rates can be frustrating. Students who are employed with Dining Services and have very busy shifts sometimes feel shortchanged. Line servers fall into the B pay grade and are paid $8.25 an hour.
“When you’re just starting out as a line server, I think it’s a little bit unfair because you’re getting paid the same as somebody who’s swiping cards at the gym, so that can be kind of crummy,” said Deifelt Streese. “But [with the raises] for managers I think it’s fair.”
Braedon Kohler ’18, a current line server, agreed.
“It’s not that I don’t like this [job], but with college being such a work-heavy time, having some sort of job where I could sit behind a desk and do work or just goof off and get paid the same amount would be cool,” he said. “I’d rather do less and get paid the same.”
The evaluation process for student workers is highly dependent on supervisors taking initiative.
The SEO’s online evaluation form is not widely used, and the office hopes to initiate further conversation about student performance evaluation in the future.
For Paul and the rest of the SEO, the main purpose of evaluation is to determining how to make students more comfortable in their jobs, even in cases where a student might not be doing their job well, or not showing up for his or her shift.
“This is a learning environment for students. It may be a student’s first job, so supervisors in general are very thoughtful with checking in with students if they’re having challenges,” said Paul. “We have very few terminations that happen. All of the termination conversations that I’ve had have been very positive with supervisors and they have resulted in most cases with students staying in their jobs.”
Paul said her goal is to set up Bowdoin as a training ground for students’ future job experiences.
“Down the road students are going to have to negotiate salaries, they’re going to have to understand their benefits, so anything we can do here as an educational tool for students is my aim in particular,” she said. “If students are coming back to me and saying, ‘This is a challenge,’ that is always positive feedback. Where we run into trouble as a society, as a work community, as an educational institution, is when feedback is not happening.”
For many students, on-campus jobs offer opportunities to learn skills and gain experiences they would not otherwise have acquired.
“I like my job—I’ve met some cool people and getting to know how the food industry works is also kind of cool. The chefs have actually had me bread tofu nuggets and I’ve done stuff that I never thought I’d do in my life,” said Kohler. “I’ve also met some people randomly at College House parties—they’ll be like ‘You’re the guy who gave me a couple extra nuggets. I like you.’”