Celebration of student employees highlights benefits to students and University
Posted: 05/20/2014
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Dr. Ala Qubbaj, vice provost for Academic Affairs, said he often forgets that the student employee in his office, Seham Obaid, is not a experienced staff member.

Pictured left to right at a ceremony held during National Student Employment Week in April are 2014 Student Employee of the Year Seham Obaid, a senior majoring in pre-med biology who works in the office of Vice Provost for Student Affairs; 2014 Student Employee Supervisor of the Year Delma Olivarez, assistant dean of students; and Sandra Mireles, UTPA student employment coordinator.
"We (my staff) forget she is a student because she really performs and impresses us," he said of the pre-med biology major who has worked in his office for four years.

Obaid was recognized for her stellar work at The University of Texas-Pan American during National Student Employment Week in April. Obaid was selected as UTPA's 2014 Student Employee of the Year during a celebration that honored the work contributions of student employees nominated by staff and faculty supervisors across the campus.

Obaid cited many benefits of working for the University besides the financial help it gave her. During her 19-hour week she said having a job on campus made it easier to go from work to class and she gained a lot of social and computer skills.

"At other jobs they wouldn't understand that school really comes first. That was a plus for me," she said.

Obaid is among approximately 2,500 student employees who work on campus each semester as work study or direct wage employees. In 2012, under the direction of UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, an Office of Student Employment was initiated with the intent to streamline the hiring process for students and those offices seeking student workers as well as to make hiring students for University office openings a priority over hiring non-students.

Daniel D. Gutierrez, assistant vice president for Business Affairs-Human Resources who spoke at the recognition ceremony, described the University's employment of students as a win-win situation.

"It is an opportunity for students to gain work experience while pursuing their degree. It helps to fund their education and for those lucky enough to supervise them it is a true opportunity at mentoring work ethic. It is a bridge to us and the working world after college," he said.

Gutierrez and Lourdes Servantes, director of Career Services, also cited the positive impacts that on and off campus student employment had on engagement and retention.

Servantes said a 2013 assessment of student direct wage employees shows the six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time freshmen is 66.7 percent compared to 39.3 percent for first-time, full-time freshmen who were not UTPA student employees. A similar positive impact was found on four-year and five-year graduation rates.

Servantes said the work study and direct wage jobs, which are posted and accessed on UTPA's Bronc Career Connection online site, allow students to gain valuable skills, such as those in time management, communication and multi-tasking as well as to learn proper business dress and etiquette.

"These are transferable skills, no matter what career you go into, students can utilize these skills," she said.

During the recognition event, Delma Olivarez, assistant to the Dean of Students, was announced as Student Employee Supervisor of the Year.

The 2014 Success Profile award, which is presented to a staff or faculty member who worked as a student employee while in college and now is a successful role model, went to Dr. Constantine Tarawneh, Bentsen Fellow and director of the University Transportation for Railway Safety and the Department of Mechanical Engineering's Graduate Program.

In his presentation to the gathering of student employee and supervisor of the year nominees, Tarawneh described working as a grader/teaching assistant, a dining services caterer, and a resident director to help finance the graduate degree he was pursuing at the University of Nebraska.

"My first semester I was taking three graduate courses and holding three jobs. I never saw it as 'I'm only getting six dollars an hour.' I thought of it as an opportunity to grow. I thought if I am the best at what I do, eventually people will notice," he said. "I tell the students who work for me - and I have 33 - that student employment gives you something excellent to put on your résumé. It shows an employer that you can hold down an academic career and a job and be able to multitask and time manage yourself. It gives you an extra edge."

For more information on the student employment at UTPA, contact Career Services at (956) 665-2243 or go to the Career Services website.