Work Study Students Feel Impact of COVID-19

Jack Malone, Reporter

Students in the work-study program are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in their jobs.

The theatre is one of several departments to cut positions, and that left Leah Brown, senior English secondary education major, the department’s only work-study student.

“As a work-study for Lemmond Theater, the type and amount of work I have during the pandemic has been very different. The number of work studies allowed for the theater has decreased, which has left me as the only work-study,” she said.

She said there is less work, and she feels a sense of loneliness without her fellow work studies.

“Because my job almost has to be done in person, I would say there’s less work to do with less events going on. However, since our work-study staff has been reduced and there is a limit to how many people can be in the theater at one time.”

She has had to work on her own, which she said has been exciting at times but also isolating.

“The workspace and my coworkers were very much like a team and a family, so it has been very different not working alongside them anymore,” Brown said.

The lessened workload makes following pandemic procedures, like social distancing, easy, however.

“Since I have had less work due to social distancing measures, it has thankfully not been too challenging for my job. It has been different though, and working solo for events and handling different aspects of the theater has been challenging in a sense but also very fun,” she said.

Brown said that the entire theater staff and volunteers did everything possible to make sure this semester felt as normal as possible.

“While the pandemic has made it that we have less events and less attendance due to number limits in place by the state and the university, we still are doing work somewhat like how we did in the past in terms of tech set-up and space management,” Brown said. “However, now we have to be conscious of cleaning equipment and keeping count of the number of people in the space. It has definitely been a challenge but one I feel the theater staff has met well.”

Senior mass communications and design major Sierra Crane found that her work study position for the College of Arts and Sciences worked out better than she expected this semester.  At the end of the spring semester, said said her boss told her that her hours might drop from eight hours a week to six. She said she was fortunate to receive 150 hours for the semester, an average of 10 or 11 each week.

“I feel so lucky to be in this position and to be able to work the hours I’ve been given and with the people I am with,” Crane said.

She said her job requires her to update academic departments’ websites and make changes to fit activities.

“I also make copies here and there for faculty if I need to,” she said.

Crane said she wanted this job because it enables her to practice skills she learned in her major but also because she can gain more skills to use in a professional workplace.

“I’ve gotten to learn a lot about how to put a webpage together, marketing the webpage for a prospective audience, and learning to work with and make connections with lots of people within the College of Arts and Sciences and within the marketing department of the University,” Crane said.

Brown shared similar feelings, saying she is thankful she has the work, but she hopes things will return to normal so more students have the work study experience.

“As a senior, I have come to accept that I will never be working as I did before the pandemic began during the rest of my time at the university. However, I hope the work studies who come after me for this position get to experience some of the more fun aspects of the job that have been impossible with the way the world currently is,” she said

Brown said she has learned to be more adaptable to change.

“I have learned to be adaptable, not just for my work-study position but just in general. Things may not always go how we plan, so we have to learn to go with the flow and adapt to the current situation to make the best of it,” Brown said.

Crane, who is graduating in December, said she will take away many new skills she learned during her time as a work study student.

“Learning how to work the FinalSite program, which is how the webpages are created, and learning how to market a webpage/product to a target audience is the main thing I will definitely take away from this job,” she said.

She said she will always treasure the relationships she built as well, especially with her boss Michelle Donato, Administrative Assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“My boss is one of my favorite people I have met at this university. She is so sweet and she makes sure I’m okay and I know what I have to do with the webpages. I always say she’s like my university mom. Michelle is the best, and I’m going to miss her a lot when I graduate,” Crane said.