The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Three Ways HR Can Impact the Student Employee Experience

student employmentIn an effort to better prepare students to enter the working world on solid footing, colleges and universities are placing greater emphasis on experiential learning — and at many institutions, student employment is a means to this end. But in order for students to gain skills and knowledge that are transferable to the world of work, the student employment experience must be a meaningful one.

In the article, “Transforming the Student Employment Experience at St. John’s University” in the current issue of CUPA-HR’s The Higher Education Workplace magazine, Lillian Dotolo of St. John’s human resources department explains how HR took the lead on improving the student employment experience at the university.

The approach was three-pronged — to shift the culture of student worker supervision to a proactive, coaching-based model; to engage departments campus-wide in creating more internal academic internships and job opportunities for students; and to implement a student worker recognition program as a means of both motivating student employees and honoring outstanding performance.

1) Equip Supervisors to Effectively Manage Student Workers
Writes Dotolo in the article, “Supervising student workers requires more than delegation — it requires mentoring, direct communication and ongoing guidance.” Unfortunately, many supervisors don’t get the opportunity to practice these skills on a regular and ongoing basis. To address that concern, St. John’s training and development team launched several training programs designed specifically for managers of student workers. The HR team also revised and relaunched its existing Supervisor’s Guide to Managing Student Workers.

2) Create More Opportunities for Student Workers
In an effort to encourage departments to utilize student interns wherever they can feasibly do so, St. John’s HR team developed and distributed to internship coordinators across campus a how-to guide and presentation on how and why departments should host internships. The department also partners with career services and the office of community relations to host an annual on-campus student employment fair.

3) Recognize Student Workers Who Go Above and Beyond
This past academic year, HR introduced a new program (SHinE – Students Honored in Employment) to recognize outstanding student workers. Explains Dotolo, “SHinE aims to motivate student workers to take initiative and strive for excellence while reinforcing qualities that are important for success in any career.” Award recipients receive a recognition plaque, a $500 check and congratulatory letters from both the university president and the chief HR officer.

These three HR-led initiatives have shifted thinking as it relates to student employment at St. John’s. Says Dotolo, “Employees now regard work study as a key component of a student’s total experience, acknowledging that the university has a responsibility to provide not only quality academics but quality experiential learning as well. As more and more individuals across campus realize the attributes that student employees bring to the university as a whole as well as to their own teams and departments, more and more opportunities are being created for St. John’s students to gain valuable work experience on campus.”

Read more about how HR transformed student employment at St. John’s University, and check out the Student Workers toolkit in the CUPA-HR Knowledge Center for additional resources on employing students on campus.


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.