On Aug. 25, Director of Student Finance Paula Walters sent an email to students announcing a work-match scholarship opportunity to help combat a shortage of student employees within Food Services and the Service Department due to COVID-19.
“Our office is working with these departments to prioritize a work-match scholarship for students who accept jobs in either of these high-need areas,” Walters wrote in the email.
According to Vice President of Enrollment Management Jason Merryman, Food Services and the Service Department have historically received less interest for student jobs than other departments on campus.
“Leadership from both of these areas expressed the need for more student labor,” said Merryman, who sits on the President’s Cabinet. “…These are two critical areas that we felt as administration needed to be addressed.”
Due to the various unique situations that COVID-19 created for Southern, developing the scholarship took a lot of collaboration, according to Merryman. He said employees from Human Resources, Student Finance, Food Services and the Service Department worked with the President’s Cabinet to find a solution.
“Because of the high need and how students aren’t as inclined to want to work in these areas, we thought we’d go ahead and prioritize these work scholarships for students that actually accept these positions,” Merryman said.
According to Walters, the scholarship is not just for new hires. It extends to students who previously worked in the designated areas and are continuing to do so this year. Students already employed by Food Services or the Service Department who want to apply for the scholarship will need to notify Student Finance and show proof of employment. Additionally, students who apply for the scholarship will be expected to hold their jobs throughout the fall semester.
“We are offering $500 to any student who accepts the job in one of those two areas and holds it at least through the fall semester with plans to obviously hold it within the winter semester, too,” Walters said. “The point is to encourage people to either get a job there or keep a job there if they already have one.”
Although the scholarship will appear on the student’s financial statement, it will not be applied until the end of the semester, according to Walters.
While Southern has offered work-match scholarships for students in the past who have worked at Adventist summer camps, as well as for the Literature Evangelism Program, Merryman said a work scholarship of this particular nature, and of this level on campus, has not been done before.
“Again, this is kind of a unique situation,” he said. “We just decided to try to get creative with this and try to help both the students and help Southern and see, ‘How do we help both areas win?’”
On an Instagram poll conducted by the Accent, 160 students said they had not applied for the scholarship, while 18 responded that they had. Additionally, 39 students said they were employed by either Food Services or the Service Department, while 170 said they were not.
Senior nursing major Ammy Silvestre, who is employed at both the Dining Hall and the Kayak, said she was surprised to see that on top of getting a salary she would now have the opportunity to receive a scholarship.
“I haven’t started work yet, but I imagine that there will be a lot more to do since there’s not enough people,” Silvestre said. “I believe that for some students, the cafeteria isn’t the most appealing place to work. But throughout my experience for the past almost three years, I can tell you that the people I work with are basically the reason I’m still there even though I have a crazy schedule.”
Junior elementary education major Leticia Venegas, who works as a food-prep employee at KR’s Place, said while she is already receiving a scholarship, she feels the opportunity for other students to receive a work-match scholarship has alleviated a lot of financial stresses that come with attending Southern.
“There have been quite a few times when we have been low on workers during a lunchtime or dinner rush, making it very challenging to prep orders in a timely manner,” Venegas said. “I think Food Service is less appealing to students because, unlike a desk job where you could do homework, you are constantly on your feet and working the entire shift.”
According to Merryman, there have been 10 job placements in the Service area and 14 in the cafeteria since late last week. He said while there’s still room for improvement, he believes there has been a positive impact and wants to encourage students to apply and visit the Student Job Board frequently because there is still a need.
“We would like to encourage those who still need jobs to help with personal expenses or with their school bills to certainly apply,” Merryman said. “I would also advise balance as well. While working is important, the priority, of course, is school and…balancing that with developing their spiritual [ and social lives].” To view available jobs and apply, students can visit https://www.southern.edu/administration/hr/forstudents/jobboard.html. To find out more information, contact Student Finance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.