New Work-Study Program Helps Students Make Valuable Contributions to the Luther Community and Broaden Skills

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

When I reflect back on my college experience, I inevitably compare the three years I spent at a large, public university to my final two years at Luther. To this day, it does not feel like Luther was the shorter of my two undergraduate experiences. There are many reasons why Luther is the place where I forged lifelong relationships and improved my understanding of my values and interests. For the purpose of this blog entry, I want to focus on one of those reasons--my student work position. Working on campus while attending classes at Luther improved my college experience and helped me form post-graduation plans.

Learning About Connections

Working as a student amplified my sense of community. At both of my undergrad institutions, I was an active participant in classes and student activities, but at Luther I also contributed to my community as an employee. My job helped me to see the college from a new perspective, and I enjoyed seeing the connections between my tasks and the experiences of students and employees. My approach to answering the office phone could help callers feel satisfied rather than frustrated. By filing paperwork accurately, I supported my colleagues’ customer service efforts. My tasks were not complex, but they became more rewarding when I realized their importance. My Luther support group, which included friends, professors, and coaches, expanded to include colleagues as well (even if none of us would have thought to use that phrase at the time). Hindsight adds clarity that isn’t felt in the moment, but I now realize that working as a Luther student prompted me to broaden my focus from the tasks I might be doing after graduation to include consideration of the outcomes and communities my tasks would be supporting.

Expanding Knowledge

Working as a student increased my understanding of my skills and interests. At the time I transferred to Luther, the self-understanding guiding my path could have been distilled to, “I have a knack for debits and credits but don’t think I want to go into public accounting.” In my defense, I had started college three years earlier with just the knack-for-debits-and-credits part, so I had made some progress. At Luther, I benefited from taking courses in which I was encouraged to demonstrate curiosity about my values, philosophies, and interests and from a work environment in which I could apply and refine new ideas. I learned that my knack for debits and credits was actually about problem solving, and that I enjoyed adapting processes in order to increase efficiency and reduce errors and having a diverse and evolving set of responsibilities. In other words, I grew to better understand the foundational skills I was developing through my work and how they aligned with my interests. My student position provided me with the opportunity to ask questions and request new projects in order to continue my exploration and development.

Meaningful Work-Study Experiences

Due to the value I assign to my own student work experience at Luther, I have long been interested in helping more students achieve similar development through work-study. The foundation has always been in place. Luther enables anyone who is legally authorized to work to pursue a work-study job, and almost every department on campus views student employees as an integral part of their operations. Since 2016-17, a group of faculty, staff, and student volunteers has been working to ensure that all work-study jobs provide meaningful work experiences that support the Luther community and develop professional skills. Heading into 2020-21, we rolled out a new student wage framework that provides paths for development, rebuilt the network of student positions to better meet the needs and structures of today, and updated student position descriptions to highlight key professional skills. In the spring of 2021, we launched a new work-study self-assessment tool and began to provide additional training to work-study supervisors. This year we are combining all of these enhancements into a new-look Luther Works program. There is now a Luther Works Leadership Team with faculty, staff, and student representation that will continue to develop a student-work program that enables students to contribute to the Luther community as they develop valuable skills and examine their interests in applied settings. There will be more exciting updates to come from that group. Stay tuned!

Scene shop work study students design the lights and set for the fall production.

{ Return to Ideas and Creations for more posts. }

Add a comment

The following fields are not to be filled out. Skip to Submit Button.
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)