The categories of who is an "essential worker" during the pandemic and how these workers impact operations across the nation have been a debated topic since last spring. Though this term is most commonly associated with healthcare workers, it also encompasses all those who work outside of the home in order to provide goods and services to others, including college students in Auburn jobs that have gone on despite the pandemic.
Chase Crocker, junior in mechanical engineering, is one such worker.
“I have been working at The Hound for two years this July,” Crocker said, “After interviewing multiple times at a different place and eventually not receiving the job, The Hound was next on my list and I was able to get a job as a member of the support staff.”
Crocker's position includes a broad range of daily duties including prepping food trays, distributing food to tables and overseeing the kitchen's work to ensure the quality of dishes prior to their delivery to customers.
“Overall, my job is to help the servers do their job as smoothly as they can,” he said.
Crocker said work is accompanied by his school obligations as well, which can be challenging at times if it is not managed adequately.
“Typically, I work more during the weekend than during the school week, so that helps balance time for school and work,” Crocker said, “But, the biggest help is jumping on schoolwork ahead of time so when work time rolls around you don't have the stress of school work piling up.”
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Crocker said he also found that adjusting his work availability to align with his school schedule allows him to have enough time to complete his school assignments with minimal time conflict.
The pandemic forced The Hound to shut down operations for a while; however, it eventually opened back up and currently observes COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“We are working daily to get back on the track we were on before COVID hit,” Crocker said, “As far as a day-to-day basis, we implement mask and glove policies during the shift as well as specific cleaning practices every hour.”
While Crocker works at an off-campus location, Auburn University offers on-campus employment for current graduate and undergraduate students. Amy Bruce, manager of student and temporary employment services at the University, gave insight on Weagle Workers, the umbrella term for on-campus student employment opportunities the University provides.
“An on-campus employer recognizes that a Weagle Worker is a student first and can be more flexible with scheduling,” Bruce said. “While being an on-campus employee is still about completing work and getting paid for it, it is also about a college experience and being a bigger part of that community.”
Bruce, who has worked at the University for almost three years and graduated from Auburn in 2008, said she advocates for flexibility when working with students.
“One of the greatest benefits of becoming a Weagle Worker is that each department understands that the individual’s first priority is being a student,” she said. “Additionally, student employees have a weekly work hour limitation of no more than 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters.”
This limitation was implemented to support students with balancing employment while maintaining a focus on academics.
Currently, approximately 6,100 graduate and undergraduate students are employed through Weagle Workers with a large number of them employed at Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, College of Science and Mathematics, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Student Affairs.
There are major-specific roles, which tend to be the most competitive, as well as positions where the only requirement is to be a currently enrolled student. Both roles allow students to develop basic life skills, like time and money management while also providing them with valuable work experience.
“Weagle Workers gives students a good link to the campus community, as well as gives an extra source of income,” Bruce said. “[It] could potentially set them apart from another candidate after college and is a great networking opportunity.”
Justin Macks, junior in accounting, is a Weagle Worker who works for the University's Transportation Services as a driver for its jAUnt shuttle service.
“I have been working with the University since the beginning of fall 2019,” Macks said. “My position ... involves transporting faculty members and students with disabilities to any location within central campus via a golf cart."
Macks said he became interested in on-campus work opportunities as a result of living on campus during his sophomore year. This meant that his commute to work was only a short walk from his living quarters and allowed him to maximize gas savings.
Macks is able to maintain a balance between work and school by strategically utilizing downtime on the job to complete schoolwork.
“I am sometimes able to work on homework while waiting to pick up passengers, which is great,” he said. “jAUnt drivers are required to stay in the Student Center when they do not have any pick-ups.”
Though Macks’ job has changed because of the pandemic, he said he is hopeful for the future.
“The pandemic has impacted my job in several ways,” Macks said. “We have less than a tenth of the demand that we had during 'normal' semesters. However, I look forward to things returning to normal in the near future.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman