Between 60 and 70 percent of Dartmouth students hold jobs they find through the Student Employment Office. Some are hired by the College to work in labs, libraries, dining services, advising, admissions, or other work-study assignments. Others do work for community members and organizations, from stacking wood to creating websites to pet-sitting. (Between winter and spring terms, the owner of a snake advertised a short-term position not for the faint at heart: providing warm foster care for his cold-blooded reptile.) Over 1,000 undergraduates hold more than three jobs in one year on campus.
Alexa Wing ’20 is one of those multitaskers. This term, she’s an undergraduate adviser and works the early bird shift (starting at 5:30 a.m.) at Lou’s Restaurant.
“My freshman winter, I had three jobs and worked 25-hour weeks, and freshman spring I had two jobs and worked 35-hour weeks,” Wing writes in an essay she submitted to a writing contest sponsored by the Student Employment Office. A double major in biology and environmental science, she’s usually on the go, serving breakfast, playing ultimate Frisbee, singing with the Rockapellas, and of course, studying and attending classes.
“I have learned to be fiscally responsible, to save money, to do my taxes, and to send money home. I have also learned to be proud of my family and all the work they do for me, and to be proud of myself for working as hard as I do,” she says.
One of the contest’s two $150 winners, Ben Szuhaj ’19, has both helped and been helped by fellow students. Soon after arriving at Dartmouth from Philadelphia, he got a job with Student Accessibility Services. “Being a note-taker meant bringing my best self to class,” he says. “Because I was listening intently, I understood the material better.”
Then came an event that turned his life—and his job—upside down. That winter, Szuhaj was the victim of a car accident and suffered a concussion.
“I was unable to play my sport, cut off from my friends (who understandably enjoyed the things I was supposed to avoid: light and sound), struggling to keep up in classes, and generally shocked by the bitter cold of my first Hanover winter. But, as fate would have it, I now qualified for note-taking services. I was to be the beneficiary of the same service I provided the previous term.”
Having someone else take notes for him, Szuhaj says, gave him “newfound empathy” when he resumed his job after his concussion healed.
Essay winner Khevna Joshi ’21 worked at the Dartmouth’s Tiltfactor laboratory, developing games for local senior citizens. After visiting clients at the Hanover Senior Center, she realized they preferred hands-on to digital play, so she devised a card game using printed emojis. That job led to another: She is now blogging for Tiltfactor, reporting on game development and research. “That’s letting me take a step back and look at the overall picture of what the lab is about and what relevant world issues our games address,” she says.
Off-campus work often introduces students to people they might not otherwise meet. Vincent Chang ’21 says tutoring in a local high school and serving food at the Novack Café on campus has taught him “how to be a better team player and collaborator.” Jean Fang ’20, who has worked at the Dartmouth Child Care Center, says “running through leaves playing tag with the kids and seeing the smiles on their faces lifts all my exhaustion away.” To Cheyenna Gonzales Pilsner ’21 the Hinman mail crew feels like family: “It’s just the fact that we are all young adults with many of the same worries, fears, frustrations, joys, and sorrows trying to get through life that brings us together … into a sense of familia.”
Kari Jo Grant, senior program manager for student employment in the office of human resources, says she gets positive feedback from student job holders, even though it’s not easy juggling work responsibilities and academics. “Many gain valuable workplace experience,” she says. “Not everyone comes to Dartmouth having held a job before, so it’s important to have something they can put on a résumé.”
In turn, she says, Dartmouth and the surrounding community benefit from undergraduate and graduate labor. The College will show appreciation to student employees with a festival on Monday in the Paganucci Lounge in the lobby of the Class of 1953 Commons.
Charlotte Albright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org