Marcia Layton Turner
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

More than two-thirds of college students work during their academic career, says Denny Olsen, senior associate director of Student Unions and Activities at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

More than 5,000 students work on the Minneapolis campus, including 250 in Olsen’s department.

When officials created a list of seven student development outcomes more than 10 years ago, Olsen’s department spotted an opportunity. Students would be offered additional experiences and teachings they would aspire to master during on-campus work assignments.

“We created a more intentional learning environment” designed to provide professional development while students ran cash registers or set-up meeting rooms, says Olsen. Positive outcomes included increased responsibility, tolerance of ambiguity, resilience, self-awareness, goal orientation and independence.

Into the Future

  • Other departments—including human resources, housing and residential life, the office for first-year programs, and the Aramark-run dining services offices—have used the Student Development Outcomes for Student Employees model. Additional University of Minnesota campuses have, as well. Others are considering it.
  • Student Unions and Activities officials plan to measure the impact of the student employment program on persistence to graduation and post-college employment.

The program pushes students to go beyond merely mastering the task at hand in on-campus jobs.

They learn how to work with work peers effectively and gain other skills that will translate to any type of career.

Since 2004, Student Unions has assessed employees on advancement on the seven outcomes. 

To ensure that student workers are receiving the guidance and support needed to improve, all Student Unions supervisors also receive training.

A 2014 survey measured how the department’s student employees compared to employees of the rest of the university on the identified outcomes, which have been associated with professional success post-graduation.

Consistently, Student Unions employees scored 15 percent to 26 percent higher than the general population on all seven.