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Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Student assistants are engaged in the valuable experience of working on campus regardless of the modality. Student assistants are engaged in the valuable experience of working on campus regardless of the modality.

Student Assistants Rise to the Challenge

Part-time student employees are adjusting to an unconventional semester and still getting valuable on-the-job experience in both the virtual and in-person environments.
By Michelle Barón

While this academic year is decidedly uncharacteristic of years past, San Diego State University’s creation and launch of SDSU Flex for fall 2020 is providing student assistants with opportunities to safely engage in the beneficial and valuable experience of working on campus regardless of the modality or their location. 

In order to ensure the success of student assistants during this unprecedented time, divisions, departments, and offices on campus realized the need to utilize communication platforms to accommodate all student employees working remotely, in a hybrid model, or on campus.

“We engage with our student assistants through daily check-in meetings via Zoom and Google Chat. These meetings are not only organized to discuss updates and assignments but also to support our students through the COVID-19 pandemic and make sure they are maintaining a healthy school-work balance,” said Hannah Bowen, Office of Housing Administration marketing and communications specialist. 

In addition, it became necessary to establish collaboration and work management tools as well as training and development resources to help student assistants thrive in both the virtual and in-person environments. 

Announced this month, the university's five-year strategic plan, "We Rise We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives," prioritizes providing students access to success through transformational experiences in and outside of the classroom.

“Once our department transitioned to a primarily remote workforce, we digitized our office documents and processes to allow student assistants access to their assigned work no matter their physical location,” said Amanda Barajas-Ritchie, Student Account Services student services specialist. “None of our students had previous telework experience, so before assigning tasks, we reviewed our newly created electronic methods and arranged extensive instructional training related to assisting with our chatbot’s live chat service.”

In alignment with the university’s flexible repopulation, instruction, and business continuity plan for fall 2020, teams across campus made significant efforts to adapt their operations and adequately prepare student assistants for unconventional responsibilities in their in-person, hybrid, or virtual assignments. 

“One major change was the transition from a physical front desk to a virtual desk, which allows our housing representatives to provide virtual support via Zoom,” said Bowen. “After comprehensive training, our student assistants have learned how to monitor Zoom, offer information in real-time to residents and their families, and have demonstrated their ability to provide excellent service in the virtual space.”

Prior to the start of the fall semester, student assistants working on campus were required to complete a COVID-19 training, which was designed to provide virus information and prevention as well as detail related risk factors and symptoms. For the fall semester, the university instituted a facial covering requirement for all on campus when individuals are in public and in the space of others. Also, all on campus must adhere to public health and healthy habits guidelines, including physical distancing. 

“As part of our approved safe reopening plan, when working in the office, our student assistants disinfect their workstation before and after use. I also have them scheduled to work on alternating days to help facilitate physical distancing,” said Nance Lakdawala, Business and Financial Affairs special assistant to the vice presidents and office manager. 

As a result of these various efforts, SDSU Flex has allowed the university to continue prioritizing the health, safety, and success of its students amid the pandemic while offering flexible options to connect with the campus community. In this model, student assistants remain involved in various areas of campus and still have the opportunity to gain invaluable professional experience whether it be through face-to-face, hybrid, or fully virtual work.