Balancing act

A busy student finds that more is better when it comes to keeping focused.

Tegan Mason, middle, and a co-worker ring up a student at Boyd Market.

Tegan Mason, a junior premedical major, balances school, several extracurriculars and a job as student coordinator in Boyd Market, the highest position available to students through dining services. Despite her heavy workload, she still finds energy to make it through the day.

An advertisement for positions within dining services was all it took for Mason to apply fall quarter of her freshman year.

After half a quarter in Boyd Dining Hall Mason was stressed out and concluded dining hall work was not for her. The lengthy process of cleaning up the salad bar was her deciding factor.

“I put in my two weeks notice and quit because it was my freshman year,” Mason said. “I was panicked and thought I was going to fail out of college.”

Her tactfulness in quitting left her in good standing with dining services. After remaining jobless the rest of her freshman year she tried again, this time applying for a position in Boyd Market.

From that point on, her career in dining services moved quickly.

Sophomore year Mason worked two quarters as a regular employee in the market before applying for manager. She then went through manager training during spring quarter, which involves a one credit class.

Fall quarter of her junior year Mason became an official manager in Boyd Market. After expressing interest in the student coordinator position she was promoted at the beginning of this quarter and saw her responsibilities grow even larger.

Mason orders everything that comes into the market, hires and schedules employees, runs weekly meetings and supervises all of the managers. One of the hardest parts for her has been managing her peers.

“Sometimes I feel like they’re afraid to be my friend because I went from being a regular employee to being their boss and a lot of them have been there longer than I have,” Mason said.

Kael Au, a senior at OU, is one such employee. She has been a regular employee in Boyd Market for a total of 10 quarters and worked alongside Tegan ever since she started.

Au obtained the position her freshman year after her RA gave her a tip on a job opening. She has been pleased with the flexibility of the position and the work of her superiors.

“They’re really good at working around when you can work and when you can’t,” Au said.

Ultimately, Mason said employees respect her authority and if they do not, a strikes policy is in place. Her experience as a leader has taught her how to handle her role.

“Any job I’ve worked I’ve always worked my way up to management positions, so I’m used to it,” Mason said.

While reprimanding can be stressful, Mason the flexible hours her position allows eases some of that stress. As a student coordinator she can work up to 30 hours a week and usually falls between 20 and 30.

“It’s nice to be able to work up to 30 if I need it,” Mason said.

Considering her other time commitments, it is a wonder she is able to find time for work. Mason said she often goes in early or leaves late to get all the tasks of her job done.

Sometimes shifts can be lengthy, and Mason has had to work open to close before, but she makes sure they do not go too late. Whereas in the past staff worked as late as 5 a.m., Mason has pushed this up two or three hours.

As president and member of OU Women’s Crew she cannot afford to lose sleep. When the weather is warm enough the team practices at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday on Dow Lake.

The Ohio University Women's Crew team carries a boat down the dock in the early hours of the morning.

Nicholas Goode, coach of women’s crew, only has words of praise for all that Tegan does.

“All I can say is that it takes an extraordinary person to balance a job and school, especially a job with leadership,” Goode said. “But when you add a demanding sport like crew it requires a level of dedication and time management that most are unable to accomplish.”

Her teammates rely on Mason’s attendance, but are able to acknowledge everything else she is trying to balance. Erin Derosa, a junior member of the crew team and its executive board, said that being a part of the team requires you to try harder in every other aspect of your life.

Derosa feels that Mason has too much on her plate and knows it, but still manages things well.

“I would not recommend that she ever takes on the role of president again since she does have so much going on with school and work,” Derosa said. “[But] at our exec meetings, she is always present in the moment. She does a good job.”

As if crew is not enough, Mason is also a member of the Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry fraternity and volunteers at the hospital every Monday. Kelly Hughes, a senior who is a member of the fraternity and a former crew member, is in awe of Mason’s dedication.

“I know when she is not working, not rowing, not in class and not in a meeting, she is at Alden studying,” Hughes said. “Honestly, I don’t know how she does it, and believe me because I tried.”

Somehow Mason does find time for it all, usually at the cost of a good night’s sleep. She does not mind, though, because it has benefited her in the long run.

“[My job] helps me in all aspects of my life because I know I have to get this done at this time or I’m not going to get it done,” Mason said. “It helps me keep on track with everything else.

Besides the occasional nightmare about not completing an order for work, Mason has managed to maintain a busy schedule and keep her sanity.

This is the second part of a two-part series on dining services jobs.


Position Descriptions:

  • Level 1: normal student employee
  • Level 2: managers in training
  • Level 3: managers
  • Level 4: student coordinators


Tegan Mason’s Work History:

Works half a quarter in Boyd Dining Hall.
Works two quarters as a regular market employee.
Manager in Boyd Market. Places orders.
Fall 2007
Fall 2008
Fall 2009
Spring 2008
Spring 2009
Winter 2010
Applies for a position in Boyd Market.
Applied for manager in the market and trained.
Promoted to student coordinator at Boyd Market.

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Top employer compensates for dirty dishes

A student employee assembles a sandwich for another student at Boyd Grab 'n' Go. Image from

As a student employee working in Dining Services at Ohio University there are many different positions available, allowing for approximately 1,000 workers presently. The amount of positions is limitless, with the department instead focusing on filling shifts.

Gwyn Scott, executive director of Culinary & Dining Operations, said that because the dining halls are open seven days a week there are many opportunities for students to work.

“For us there is an opportunity to work for just about any hour of the day,” Scott said.

Every student has different availability. Some are content with one shift a week while others are upset they cannot work more than 20 hours a week unless they become a student manager or student coordinator.

Scott’s mother owned a restaurant, so she got her start in the food industry early. In junior high Scott went on to work in college food service and because of that said she can relate to what the student employees are trying to balance.

“I swore after having lived through that there was no way and I quickly changed my mind and now here I am,” Scott said. “I’ve been in this all of my adult life.”

Scott was able to acknowledge that not all of the positions within dining services are desirable. Yet, many students stay with the department over the course of their college career and Scott attributed that to salary.

“We do realize it’s challenging,” Scott said. “This is not something that you can sit at a front desk and maybe study. Sometimes you get dirty.”

To account for the focus required of the positions students are paid above minimum wage and are awarded with longevity bonuses of 10 cents on the hour every three quarters.

“Once they’re trained in how to do things there’s value in not re-training or training a new person,” Scott said. “We want to keep them here.”

A student employee stands outside the entrance to Nelson Market. Image from

Should students choose to continue their employment with dining services, there are opportunities for growth on several levels.

“Some of them it’s not a matter of progression into a higher level position. Some of it may be a more desirable shift or a more desirable position within dining services,” Scott said.

On the other hand, there are those students who desire more leadership. Many of them become student managers or student coordinators, the highest possible position.

Holding a higher position has its perks. Managers can work up to 25 hours weekly and coordinators up to 30 hours weekly. In addition, they receive one credit hour for a training course.

“To be able to effectively supervise your peers is something that not everybody has an opportunity and to put that on your résumé is very attractive,” Scott said.

As is the case with all departments on campus, possible budget cut scenarios were recently submitted. Luckily for students working in dining services, they do not have to worry about losing their jobs.

“We have reduced our student employment program as far as we can go,” Scott said. “We have to have a certain level of staffing in order to serve the students appropriately and there are only so many areas you can cut.”

While dining services will not have to deal with the headache of firing employees, they do have a large amount of work when it comes to choosing who to hire.

Typically the department has a surplus of students who apply for the position but are unable to work during the available shifts. At the moment that number is higher than normal, which Scott attributed to the economy.

When it comes down to it, dining services has an array of employees working for them. Working alongside Ohio University students are Hocking College students, local high school students and junior high students.

OU students make up the majority, though, creating a network of dining services employees across campus.

This is the first part of a two-part series on dining services jobs. Look for part two on March 11, 2010.

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Recent happenings

Today I had the opportunity to speak with two lovely women involved in student employment.

First, I met with Gwyn Scott, executive director of Culinary & Dining Operations at Ohio University. She spoke with me about what it means to be the largest student employer on campus and how the department works to accommodate their workers while still running smoothly.

My second interview was with Sarah Dutton, co-student service coordinator for the Campus Involvement Center. She works with the community service work-study program that is often unheard of so I tried to find out more about it.

Both interviews will be used shortly for larger stories…so check back soon!

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Work-study positions abound at Alden

Exterior of Vernon R. Alden Library. The panoramic photograph was the 3 millionth item added in 2009. Image borrowed from Ohio University Libraries' flickr page.

Walk into Vernon R. Alden Library at Ohio University and chances are you will encounter one of the approximately 225 student employees in some form. In addition, you have a 50 percent chance that the student is working part-time through the Federal Work-Study Program.

As budgets are cut, work-study positions are appealing to employers. Shelia Curtis works in Human Resources at Alden and explained that the work-study positions do not cost the employers anything.

“They’re paid by the federal government and so then they have so much money for each department to hire students hourly,” Curtis said.

Alden cut around $30,000 from the student budget this year and is looking to do the same for next year. Curtis said that often such cuts will only deter hiring replacements for student workers who graduate or leave.

“It doesn’t usually affect students that are already working for us,” Curtis said.

Shea Daniels, a sophomore studying creative writing, holds a work-study position in the Digital Initiatives Department at Alden. She was first offered work-study her incoming freshman year and chose to work at the library because it intrigued her, as opposed to other campus jobs.

“Oh yea, I want to work in a dining hall,” Daniels sarcastically said.

The work Daniels performs in Digital Initiatives is mostly research and will not add much to her field of study in the long run, but she enjoys it.

Other students working at Alden sometimes find that a different work-study position might benefit them more directly. Curtis explained that most workers remain at the library, but experience, higher salary and more hours occasionally will cause a student to leave.

“Some will maybe get a job elsewhere in campus that is in their field of study, and so they’ll switch over to that,” Curtis said.

A student worker checks out material at the circulation desk on the fourth floor of Alden Library. Image borrowed from

That is exactly what happened to Eileen McLoughlin, a junior studying psychology. She worked at the circulation desk for four quarters before deciding to work elsewhere.

“I chose the copy center of the psych building because I would get to know the professors better, their name, face and what they specialize in,” McLoughlin said. “Plus I figured it could only help me get into a good lab and later a letter of recommendation.”

Regardless of students leaving, Alden has a slightly higher number of work-study employees than last year. About 15 work-study positions were added this quarter, Curtis said, bringing the number to about 115 compared to last year’s 110.

“Sometimes students have awards for work study but they don’t actually go to work and so that money is still there. So they [financial aid] look at what money wasn’t used and then they reapportion it, I think, and then go ahead and make awards for additional students later on in the year that have been on the waiting list,” Curtis said.

An average student employee position at Alden starts at $7.30 an hour, minimum wage, and those who continue employment are rewarded every three quarters with a ten cent raise. Some positions receive higher wages due to their tasks.

“Some of them work overnight…they have more responsibility and they’re frequently on their own…working with the public and different things,” Curtis said.

Whether it’s the guarantee of a pay increase, the quiet atmosphere or the central location, Alden is the third largest employer on campus for a reason.

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Ping hoping to spare student employment

The exterior of the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center. Image borrowed from

As the second largest student employer at Ohio University the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center provides jobs to approximately 500 students. Essentially, the only limit to growth in numbers is the center’s budget, a common dilemma for campus departments at the moment.

Dr. Douglas Franklin, Assistant Dean for Recreation and Wellness, turned in two possible budget cut scenarios for the Ping Center a week ago. One detailed what would be done away with if a five percent loss were to occur and the other a 10 percent loss.

“The problem is that within our scenarios they included our entire budget, and our entire budget includes fixed costs that we can’t do anything about,” Franklin said. Excluding the operational portion, 5 percent of the center’s total budget is about $305,000 and 10 percent is about $610,000.

Along with the worry of possible cuts comes the added stress of time. Franklin originally heard he might receive feedback in early March, but now there is talk of having to wait until April.

Regardless of when Franklin finds out the center’s fate, he is hoping that involving student employment in the budget concerns will be a last resort.

“We’ve avoided it over the last few years. We trimmed around the edges. We cut hours during the breaks, on weekends and those kinds of things. Peak hours are still being maintained,” Franklin said.

Franklin’s determination was comforting to Clare Conway, a Ping employee.

“It’s a good thing for me, seeing as how I work at Ping,” Conway said. “Ultimately it probably is a good thing for the students as well because if not as many people worked then there wouldn’t be as many hours open where people could utilize Ping.”

Supporting the student employees is a top priority at Ping. Franklin explained that the center’s focus is student development through student employment. The theory of challenge & support developed by Nevitt Sanford, a psychologist, is often relied upon in working with student employees.

A 2004 journal published by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators discussed Sanford’s theory.

“Students must be challenged to push themselves forward developmentally while in college, yet also be offered a reasonable amount of support and encouragement,” the journal stated. At the same time an overload of support can lead to laziness.

When Conway reflects on her initial employment, she is able to acknowledge the involvement of this theory.

“We were always encouraged to try to go for that next position up, whether it was supervisor or manager or a whole different job,” Conway said. She took their encouragement to heart and eventually became a group fitness instructor.

According to Franklin, an average student working at Ping could earn $2000 to $2,500 a year.

While this is an immediate benefit that allows employees to cover a variety of college expenses, long term advantages are also obtained.

“What we’ve all discovered is that most students don’t actually understand the long term. They think, ‘I’ve got a job, and I’ve got a good job in Ping. It’s a fun job. It’s enjoyable. Everybody knows me because they come through Ping,’” Franklin said.

In addition to being able to add the job experience to a resume, students understand time management and communication with a diverse group of people.

The role is enormously familiar to Franklin, who started off as trainer manager for his college football team and, over time, was offered a graduate assistantship. “The experiences I got actually led to my first job. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Franklin said.

When it comes down to it, Franklin wants to make sure that others in the OU community understand the importance of Ping as a recreation center and employer.

“It’s a thing we don’t want to lose. What worries me is when the university starts to become myopic about cost savings in the wrong areas,” Franklin said.

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Upcoming Story

I met with Dr. Doug Franklin, Assistant Dean for Recreation and Wellness, at the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center and discussed student employment within the facility. He informed me that Ping is the second largest student employer on campus, following Food Services and preceding Vernon R. Alden Library.

With the budget cuts looming over the university, I spoke with Dr. Franklin about what this means for Ping, in particular student jobs. He made it clear that cutting the number of student jobs is a last resort and the facility is hoping that such an ultimatum won’t be necessary. “We’ve avoided it over the last few years. We trimmed around the edges. We cut hours during the breaks, on weekends and those kind of things. Peak hours are still being maintained,” Franklin said.

Once we concluded with that topic, Dr. Franklin went on to tell me about the jobs offered and how the department is truly concerned with fostering growth in their employees. Aiming for a higher position is encouraged, and, with the budget being the only deterrent to hiring, there are many opportunities for students to excel. Along with Dr. Franklin’s interview, I have spoken to a student employee at Ping.

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Recent Advertisement

I saw this advertisement hanging around in a residence hall and found it interesting. The Department of Residential Housing at Ohio University appealed to the students by using Facebook in their advertisement. In case you cannot tell, it’s meant to look like a Facebook page, but when you look closer you can see that it gives details about (past) informational dates for students to find out about the position of a resident assistant. Smart move.


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