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Managing student employees in campus card services

By Mikhail Ilin, Manager of Campus Card Services, and Adjunct Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Suffolk University

At Suffolk University the Campus Card Services Office serves a community comprised of students, staff and faculty across three schools: College of Arts and Sciences, Sawyer Business School and the Suffolk University Law School. We handle many of the vital aspects of the student experience, including meal plan management; access control; on- and off-campus payments and a discount transit program.

We are a staff of 2.5 full-time employees, and with such vast responsibilities we rely heavily on student employees. Student employees manage the student services center, assist in marketing and technical support areas, as well as staff our student outreach programs. On a semester basis we hire a team of 12-15 student workers.

But why hire so many student workers? In the past, hiring student workers was universally seen as a cost-saving technique, however this view is outdated. The Suffolk card services office hires student workers for reasons that go far beyond saving money.

Keeping with the times

If your office, like ours, is charged with marketing and student outreach programs, then student workers can be a tremendous resource. Staying current with marketing trends is a daunting task, but students are well equipped to reach their peers.

In the past, hiring student workers was universally seen as a cost-saving technique, but this view is outdated.

I’m reminded of one example when our marketing intern produced and advertisement with purple text. To me it didn’t look quite right, but as she explained, purple was the “in color” for teen and early twenties age groups at the time. A quick Google searched completely backed her claim.

Perhaps the most important reason to hire student workers, though, is to provide them with functional, hands-on experience and résumé building blocks. We are an institution of higher learning and our office is an extension of the institution. Thus, I feel it is my duty to help advance student knowledge.

During our pre-employment interviews, we ask, “what is your major and how may we help you attain your educational and career goals?”

Intra-departmental networking

Because card services interfaces with so many areas of student life on campus we are able offer hands-on experience in marketing, information technology, graphic design, communications, global business, management, education, accounting and many more areas. It’s not uncommon for our student employees to branch out and obtain part-time employment with one of our external merchants to further their education toward a specific career goal.

With our office’s wide range of responsibilities we are in need of at least 12 student workers every semester. But where and how do we recruit?

Between work-study job fares, financial aid listings and internal web postings, there’s no shortage of recruitment sources on campus. But the two most effective channels for our card service office have been word-of-mouth and intra-departmental recruitment.

Campus card services at Suffolk works very closely with many other student-facing departments. At times, our flexibility, opportunities and management style might better fit a student worker from another department. In these situations, our campus’ intra-departmental network will help to find a more suitable placement for these students.

Because Suffolk’s Card Services department is able to offer experience in several academic and professional disciplines, we are often the go-to department for student worker transfers. These transfers are always welcome and are made possible by strong bonds that the card services office has formed with other campus departments.

Word of mouth

An even more effective channel is word-of-mouth recruitment. Somewhat jokingly we implemented a rule that a graduating student worker needed to find someone to take their place. To our surprise, the rule has taken root and has been successfully followed.

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