Student employees find community and grow professionally

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The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) is a “commuter school.” Often, students are only on campus to attend their classes and some students struggle to find a community.

Student employment is one way to spend more time on campus. There are hundreds of student employees at UAA. Many student workers find a greater sense of community by working on campus.

The University Hub, or "the hub," employs about 20 students. They work for the different programs located at the hub. More than half of them work for New Student Recruitment.

Alyzza Lacaste moved from Kodiak to Anchorage for college. She is a student ambassador for New Student Recruitment. She says that student employment was her way to find her place in a new town.

“Working on campus has changed my student life. At work, I made friends with my coworkers and became more involved on and off campus,” Lacaste said. “We mostly coordinate events for junior high and high school students. I'm also out in the community representing UAA.”

A typical day for student ambassadors, like Lacaste, includes back-to-back group tours. People who want to attend UAA call the recruitment office to schedule a tour. The student ambassadors are in charge of showing them around. They also help coordinate events for middle school and high school students.

On this particular week, New Student Recruitment is getting ready for Kids 2 UAA. It’s one of their largest events of spring semester. The event brings fifth and sixth-graders from the Anchorage School District to UAA. The student ambassadors will guide more than two-thousand students. They'll show them a glimpse of college life. They'll also teach them the importance of saving for college. It’s a hectic time, but for Lacaste it’s also a chance to get more in touch with the community.

“The best thing about working on campus is probably making connections and networking with various people,” she said. “Another really great thing about working on campus is that, after these events, people remember me when I’m out in the community.”

Mara James is a senior in her final semester. She is part of the “Wolfpack,” the student workers at New Student Orientation. As part of the "Wolfpack," she helps new students settle into UAA.

For James, student employment gave her more than a community. It helped to provide a balance between work and college.

“I've really enjoyed working on campus as a student because it offered a lot of opportunities for me,” James said. “I also had a wonderful supervisor. She understood the importance of being a student. That came in handy when I was overloaded with school work. "

James also said student employment is invaluable to professional growth.

“I'm more comfortable taking charge, leading, and speaking in front of people I've never met before," she said. "In a work setting, I had to grow to meet the expectations and goals of my position. I couldn't keep being shy or timid, I had to push myself to get the job done."

Katherine Pascua graduated from UAA. For her, student employment can lead to greater involvement and professional opportunities. She worked at Residence Life an a resident assistant.

“I wanted a position that would give me a chance to develop my professional skills," she said. "I also wanted to be involved at school. Working at Residence Life, I got to know other students, lead them, and learn from my supervisors. That [experience] gave me what I was looking for.”

After graduating from UAA, Pascua found herself back on campus. She now supervises student ambassadors at New Student Recruitment. She also juggles the workload of a university recruiter.

She assigns daily tasks to student ambassadors and teaches them the ins and outs of working in an office. Like her former supervisors, she guides student employees through their professional journeys.

“One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is in their confidence,” Pascua said. “I see their confidence rise as they become more and more involved on campus. They go from being regular students to student ambassadors. They are student leaders, and just all-around professionals.”

Students who would like to work on campus can apply at careers.alaska.edu.