5 higher ed leaders: What I learned from working on campus as a student

Students often overlook the potential for on-campus employment to teach them valuable skills and lessons they'll use throughout their careers.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently asked college leaders about the campus jobs they worked as undergraduates and what they learned from them. Here are highlights from their responses:

1: Charles Allen, assistant dean of undergraduate programs at the Fox School of Business at Temple University

Allen worked several campus jobs as an undergrad, including working in the campus bookstore, for the student newspaper, at the information desk, as a student ambassador, and as a computer lab tech. Allen shares that the variety of his experience taught him to take every task seriously, no matter how small. He credits this work ethic—and a dean who noticed it—for helping him get the position that started him on his higher education career.

2: Jamie Craighead, instructor in the department of business and computer information systems at Beacon College

Craighead also worked a range of campus jobs as an undergraduate, including helping to teach business and economics statistics to his peers. This job left the biggest impression on him, he writes, because the faculty member he worked with had such an eclectic approach: the professor would record statistics lessons wearing Spock ears and teach probability using lottery tickets. Craighead writes that this experience taught him "the importance of making the learning experience exciting, interactive, and fun."

Show students how on-campus jobs can prepare them for their careers

3: Michael Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean at Grinnell College

Latham worked as an interviewer in the admissions office of his institution. In that role, he writes, he saw administrators disagree about which students to admit—but even while they debated, they continued respecting and listening to each other. Latham shares that it taught him essential lessons about the culture of a liberal arts institution: how to listen to all colleagues, focus on common goals, and disagree respectfully.

4: Keith Nelson, chief technology officer at Alma College

Nelson worked as a lab assistant as an undergraduate. He encountered financial challenges that forced him to drop out of college, but the researcher he'd worked with hadn't forgotten him. The faculty member wrote Nelson a letter encouraging him to finish his degree—which Nelson ultimately did (though at a different institution). Nelson shares that the faculty member's kindness and empathy continue to influence his own approach today as a teacher, advisor, and manager.

5: Brad Pulcini, assistant dean for student engagement and director of the First-Year Experience at Ohio Wesleyan University

Pulcini worked in the campus bookstore at his undergraduate institution. He writes that he often saw students delay buying textbooks because they couldn't afford them; sometimes they would ask his advice about which textbooks they could do without for certain classes. Pulcini writes that the experience taught him about the challenges students face in college, particularly how financial challenges can inhibit student success (Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/29).

Find the hidden pain points in your students' experience

Next in Today's Briefing

The leadership trait Obama, Oprah, and Zuckerberg all share

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague