Student workers grateful to keep their GCU jobs
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The disruption of the last two months was eased for some Grand Canyon University student workers who retained jobs while working remotely from many states – or right down the road.
Junior Jamie Bettis, who lives in an off-campus apartment in Phoenix, was loaned an entire desktop setup with two monitors for her student job in Technical Support.
She lives with five roommates in an 800-square-foot apartment because some couldn’t return home.
“We have a refugee camp situation going,” she said. “My work station is at the end of my bed.
“I was able to transition, and they are giving me as many hours as I can get, so I have that security.”
Nearly a third of GCU’s 1,778 student workers still were employed during the weeks when the COVID-19 outbreak emptied the campus. So were 85% of Grand Canyon Education’s 798 student workers.
More than two-thirds of those GCU/GCE student workers could work remotely in areas ranging from technology, tutoring, records, marketing and human resources, among others.
“It was important because a lot of them use that job to pay for schooling. And a lot of students came to me worried because they were going to be the sole income for their families,” said Nikki Baumgardner, Technical Support Supervisor, who kept 87 students employed.
The economic downfall has been a companion crisis, and students’ families were not immune. Every little bit helps.
Baumgardner said her department quickly secured equipment for remote work, including tablets and software for using a phone through the computer, to answer numerous questions of faculty, staff and traditional students who were transitioning to online learning or setting up video conferencing.
“Our student workers are pretty tech savvy, so they picked up on it quick,” she said. “(These jobs) are really important for our students because we are usually the ones they call when they are having issues.”
Several student workers said they would have a tough time without maintaining their jobs.
“For me, not working isn’t an option,” said senior Megan Benedict, who stayed employed by switching from the GCU Arena Box Office, which didn’t need her because of canceled events, to Academic Records. “I pay for my own education, and not working means I’m not able to do that. There are also unexpected things coming up, like my car breaking down and needing to go to the shop. So I’m grateful that I’m able to continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Senior Ashley Dowers was stressed out because her job in the College of Education office was no longer needed and she didn’t know how she would pay bills. But she also picked up work in Academic Records sending out documents and processing mail. She was able to work in Building 71 at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road with social-distancing guidelines in place and staggered shifts.
“Coming back in feels like I have a purpose again, which sounds so cheesy, but it’s been awesome,” she said.
Jeremy Hayden, Academic Records Manager, said it was also helpful for his department, which faces a busy time of year when diplomas are processed and documentation for education records is needed for those in transition.
If there is a model for not letting a crisis stop work, it has been Canyon Ventures Center, the startup incubator at GCU. It not only kept 82 students and alumni working remotely during the crisis, it grew.
Dr. Andre Tran, of Coronado, Calif., launched Alex Math, a math tutoring business named after his son who goes to GCU. He hired four GCU students.
“This venture was launched remotely with the help of Canyon Ventures, and we provided him with students who do the work remotely via Skype, Zoom,” said Robert Vera, Director of Canyon Ventures. “And it was started during COVID-19.”
Students also filled roles in Human Resources for Workday and onboarding new hires, which they could do remotely.
“We worked with IT to get them laptops, and their managers check in with them regularly. So it was pretty seamless having them work remotely,” said Patti Stoner, Vice President of Human Resources.
Marketing employed 77 student workers across several departments.
“It helps them earn money and it helps them to not have to look for a summer job, especially in a time of COVID,” said Darci Hansell, Senior Marketing Manager, Online Enrollment.
Grace Moser was impressed with the trust the University placed in students to do the work, even giving them desktop computers to get it done.
“In such an uncertain time, this opportunity for me and many other student workers was unbelievable,” said Moser, who graduated with a business degree and during the transition landed a fulltime job with the University as a marketing project specialist. “As many other students feared losing their jobs, GCU’s student workers had peace of mind knowing their jobs were secure.”
It went beyond financial benefits.
Mackenzie Mork said she was able to expand her knowledge, learning new tasks that needed to be done in marketing, while at her parents’ home in New Mexico.
“I’ve been picking up new skills that I would never have learned without the pandemic, which is funny to say,” the senior said.
Lydia Boyer, a sophomore from Las Vegas, also ventured outside her area of expertise as an education major to continue working with GCU TV.
She boned up on skills during short online courses in film and journalism and submitted projects via Google Drive while getting paid.
“I learned there is more to journalism than just pressing play,” she said. “And I learned my phone is capable of a lot with free apps.”
The film projects started to look very COVID era: “They were in everybody’s house or in their yard,” she said.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.