Student Employee Learning: Fall Training Revisited and Ongoing Opportunities for Education
By: Sara Cope, Senior Coordinator of Operations and Events
September 28, 2021
Each fall, the Student Centers student employees return to campus the week before classes begin to participate in a multi-day training to prepare them for their jobs in the year ahead. This fall, 2021, we were tasked with planning an especially important training because of the high number of first-time, new staff. Typically our staff may be around 70% returners and 30% new hires, but this fall, those percentages were almost flipped. 60% of the staff were brand new, and even of the 40% returners, we only had 4 students who had ever worked a full year on campus under “normal” conditions, pre-Covid. Without our ability to rely heavily on returning staff, we began making plans for in-depth training that would include all-staff sessions as well as area-specific sessions, where training information would be delivered on a more personal level in our smaller teams.
Planning for fall training over the summer months was a collaborative effort across the professional staff of the department. In my role as Sr. Coordinator, I take point on the all-staff sessions and overall logistics, but I rely heavily on area-specific supervisors to build out the details of their area’s training. When making decisions about what to include in training, we try to curate content that is in line with the Student Learning core competency of ACUI, our Student Centers professional organization. Specifically, we aim to develop a training environment and activities that best promote student learning, engagement, and knowledge retention. Our plans also evolve every year based directly on assessment data collected from students immediately following training the previous year. We pull back up their feedback and make decisions about content to amplify, revise, or cut out altogether based on its effectiveness in the past.
In addition to being informed by ACUI competencies, we also try to train toward our own internal staff learning outcomes: Problem Solving, Technical Operations, Personal & Professional Development, and Interpersonal Skills. Our all-staff sessions present an excellent opportunity to educate toward these learning outcomes. This fall, the all-staff presentations from our campus partners covered the topics of culturally competent hospitality, work-life harmony while being a working student, and emergency preparedness. Then, when the students broke out into area-specific trainings, they were able to dive deeper into the details of the technical operations, such as audio-visual troubleshooting, how to read event diagrams and setup rooms, and how to do facilities rounds. This program design allows students to reflect on these broader topics of learning as well as get the crucial logistics that are needed for their first shift on the job.
With training in our rear view mirror, we have our sights set on a school year full of continued learning. In line with ACUI’s core competency expectations, we don’t want the learning to end after fall training. We want to continue to incorporate these transferrable skills into ongoing professional development, daily job duties, supervision style, and evaluation. One example of how we have already kept the learning going is by hosting our Manager Training Day. This was a half-day workshop that brought together our Student Managers to highlight skills specific to their leadership role. Our one-on-one curriculum is another avenue for continued learning. Led by graduate students in our office, the September one-on-ones across the department were focused on goal setting, which ties into our personal development learning outcome. And most recently, our Student Employee Advisory Board (SEAB) is partnering with our Center for Student Wellbeing on a professional development workshop focused on self-care and wellness.
Each spring when our seniors graduate, it is our hope that they are taking with them some pieces of this learning from their employment with Student Centers. We have a department philosophy of getting our staff in the “yes pile” for whatever it is that they want to do next. Whether a student is a first-time employee or a returner for the third year in a row, we want to continually offer opportunities for that student to grow on our team. We are invested in our fall training program because it is our signature annual training (and a new staff member’s first impression of our department), but we also strive to make everyday a learning opportunity through our supervision and mentorship of each student employee. For more information on the Vanderbilt Student Centers student employment program, please visit our website at https://www.vanderbilt.edu/studentcenters/student-employment-overview/.