Student workers give high marks for Collis

by Anna Parachkevova | 5/27/04 5:00am

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a multi-part series on employment conditions for students at the College.

Whether they are making smoothies in the cafe, taking orders in Lone Pine, answering questions at the information desk or striking a stage setup in Common Ground, student employees at Collis are almost always interacting with others.

Unlike some other jobs on campus, human interaction is a major aspect of any student position in the Collis Center. Drawn by the vibrant social environment in the building, Collis officials said many student employees play a crucial role in maintaining the center's spirit of inclusiveness.

Although the importance of this human interaction is not always discernable or easily quantifiable, when it comes to the results of students' work, the numbers speak for themselves.

More than 2 million people walk through Collis annually, according to statistics released by Joe Cassidy, director of Collis and associate dean of student life.

Over the past year, Collis was ranked at least top three in every category in an intercollegiate evaluation of customer service quality in student centers, Cassidy said.

Collis is well-known as a place where undergraduate, graduate and prospective students as well as alumni, parents, community members and college administrators congregate, officials said.

"Without the work of student employees, all this would not be possible," said Charles Collis '37.

Collis' donation of $5.5 million in 1994 allowed for the complete renovation of the Collis Center. The building was originally built in 1901, making it one of the oldest campus centers in America.

Since its renovation, both Collis and his wife Ellen have paid regular visits to the center, seeking student employees' input on changes to the building. The family used their recent visit on Tuesday as an opportunity to personally meet and thank student employees for their involvement. Graduating seniors received gifts as a recognition for their service.

The event was also an opportunity for students to thank the Collis family for their generosity.

"It is important for students to learn the value of philanthropy," Holly Sateia, dean of student life and senior associate dean of the College, said in her opening remarks before formally introducing Collis.

Student workers also had the chance to discuss their experiences and talk about what working in Collis meant to them.

Having tried three other on-campus jobs, Ryan Foley '04 said that her job as Collis building manager was the first paid position that gave her the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

"Collis aims to create an educational work environment," Foley said, adding that she had particularly learned from handling Collis' finances, interacting with customers and co-workers and dealing with various technical problems.

"Now, if I or one of my colleagues has a problem with a presentation in my future job, I will know how to fix it," Foley said.

Foley also spoke about the sense of community that the job created. Weekly meetings, she noted, have played an important role in shaping this sense of community.

In addition to offering training and more structure to the work of managers, Collis Governing Board meetings not only contributed to the professional development of student employees but were also an opportunity for students to get to know each other, according to Foley.

"Hopefully, along with the work experience I've gained I'll be able to take some of these friendships with me out into the real world when I graduate," Foley said.