OSWEGO — A recent study of colleges and universities has ranked SUNY Oswego fifth in New York state among colleges and universities employing students in part-time jobs, a finding that reflects the value Oswego places on employment in improved retention and academic achievement.
The study conducted by Student Loan Report, a publication moderated by journalist Drew Cloud that tracks the academic lending industry, ranked Oswego No. 5 statewide in total compensation — $3.3 million paid to 1,588 part-time student workers at the college in 2015-16. The study was based on college- and university-reported financial aid data licensed from Peterson’s, a higher education publishing and research organization.
Under President Deborah F. Stanley, SUNY Oswego focuses great effort on improving student persistence to graduation, providing an array of academic and student support services, a learning-centered and inclusive campus culture, the Oswego Guarantee and its Graduation ROI incentive, scholarships, affordable study-abroad opportunities and much more — including student employment opportunities.
Data for the cohort of 2015, the latest available, show that retention of students – their continuing studies at the college – who are employed on campus is at a rate 8 percentage points higher than those who were not employed, according to the college’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
For the cohort of 2014, the retention rate was 5.3 percentage points higher among those employed. The results were similar those two years when examining data for students in good academic standing.
“I can say with confidence that the graduation rate is higher among students who work part time than the overall campus rate,” added Mehran Nojan, director of institutional research and assessment. “Working teaches responsibility, accountability and, perhaps most telling, a structure as a member of a community that functions as a support.”
Students, in turn, provide a great deal of value with their labor. Michael Flaherty, general manager of Oswego’s Auxiliary Services, said, “We couldn’t operate without students.”
Auxiliary Services averaged about 760 student employees during the last two pay periods of the fall 2016 semester, shared Flaherty, whose not-for-profit corporation supports college enterprise activities such as dining services, catering and the College Store.
Auxiliary Services’ surveys of part-time workers show that, among other benefits, students value the experience for interpersonal skills such as communication and teamwork, cultural interactions, time management, wellness awareness and practical skills acquisition in areas such as customer service and managing money, Flaherty added.
Senior public relations major Jacqueline Decker, who has worked in Auxiliary Services’ Artville store in Hewitt Union for four years, said, “I think it definitely has a positive effect on my studies.” Decker balances her academic and Artville work with her role as vice president of the Mu Sigma Upsilon sorority. “Having such a busy schedule, you have no choice but to manage your time.”
Students also work under the auspices of the federally funded and needs-based Federal Work-Study program — the college employed more than 400 students under Federal Work-Study in 2015-16.
“Beyond the obvious benefits, when you work on campus, you have access to people who can provide you with advice, access and knowledge that you may not have otherwise,” said Mark Humbert, the college’s financial aid director. “Second, if students maximize their campus employment experiences, they will have great references to use when they leave college and begin their career. Additionally, it has been demonstrated through research that students who work on campus have higher retention and graduation rates. The campus employment experience engages students on the campus in ways that enhance the chances they will complete their program and do so on time.”
The needs of employers in a vibrant community such as the college make for a wide array of opportunities.
A small sample among hundreds of jobs includes admissions representatives to conduct campus tours; lab assistants for studio art, audio, video and the sciences; office workers; costuming and construction assistants for theater; athletics scorekeepers, ushers and equipment room aides; academic research assistants; and many more.
Junior psychology major Brittney Castagne works 10 to 15 hours a week in the Mahar Hall office of counseling and psychological services, a School of Education graduate program.
“It has helped me grow my skills and given me confidence. I’m honored to have this job as an undergraduate,” said Castagne, who also is chair of Active Minds and vice president of the Psi Chi international honor society for psychology.
Brandon Roertgen had a work-study job for four years in Athletics as a communications assistant. He did everything from managing the public address system to keeping statistics and preparing articles for the website.
After graduation with a degree in journalism, he was hired as assistant director of athletic communications in Laker Hall, where he works with Director of Athletic Communications Mike Bielak.
Roertgen said, “I even had the privilege of doing statistics for the NCAA tournament second round (last March) when men’s basketball hosted all four games. Right now I’m looking to gain as much experience as possible and learn the (sports communications) trade.”
Sophomore business administration major Julia Lavery has worked in the office of Facilities Maintenance and Operations for nearly two years, including during college breaks.
Most of the time, she takes trouble calls regarding issues with campus buildings or grounds.
“I love being able to ease the tensions of people who call the office with maintenance issues,” Lavery said. “I definitely love my job here.”
The pay helps, added Lavery, who lives in an apartment off campus.
“It’s nice having a bit of a buffer so I’m not constantly stressed about finances. It teaches me to manage my money,” she said.
Stephanie Radomski is among about 15 work-study students who help staff the reception desk in the Compass, the college’s student success services center.
Her busy college life also includes working as a teaching assistant in a business course, coordinating philanthropy for the Oswego chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and participating in Del Sarte Dance Club.
“I like knowing all the Career Services people and the advisers,” Radomski said. “You make great connections working here.”
For more information on student employment opportunities at SUNY Oswego, visit oswego.edu/financial-aid/student-employment.