This year marks the first time that Vassar College has held the Student Employee of the Year (SEOTY) program. According to Vassar College Student Employment, SEOTY is a nation-wide student selection process that aims to recognize students whose work helps the College run. The program starts on an institution-wide level and moves to a regional level. Vassar is located in the Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators (NEASEA).
Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Student Employment Briane Balzer was the key person behind the institution of the program and explained her involvement in the process overall. “I am a member of both of these organizations and receive various information on the annual celebration. I was anxious to participate in this program because Student Employment periodically receives emails and phone calls from employers regarding certain students that simply go above and beyond their job duties,” she said.
She continued “SEOTY is a way for employers to recognize these individuals in a broader scope. I think it is important to recognize them among the Vassar community as a whole because the entire student employment program is necessary for Vassar to function every day. With students who go above and beyond, it simply makes the program that much more stronger and effective campus and community-wide. It was also fun to celebrate the nominees and winner over a private catered tea event during National Student Employment Week.”
This year, the SEOTY winner is Wilson Platt ’14. Platt works as a head consultant in the Writing Center. He responded in an emailed statement, saying, “It’s a huge compliment and feels incredible because I care a ton about the work I do, but…it also seems like a pretty arbitrary competition. In terms of what goes along with this title…the College told me I’ll get some money from the national foundation. But I think it’ll be like 50 bucks. Vassar gave me a $25 gift certificate to Babycakes, which was awesome.”
He continued, clarifying his acceptance of the award by saying, “I appreciate everybody who works with me more than anything, that this award, some of the stuff that got written about me, wasn’t just me. It was projects and ideas and collaborations from a lot of other people on staff.”
Balzer explained the reasoning for choosing Platt, emphasizing his exceptional work in the Writing Center. “There is a very formal nomination and selection process for SEOTY and the selection criteria is based on reliability, quality of work, initiative, professionalism and uniqueness of contribution. All of our nominees exhibited these traits in the nomination forms, however, Wilson stood out slightly in front among the votes based on the levels for which he met the criteria,” she said.
Platt was encouraged by the introduction program, explaining that he thought the program as a nice benefit for student workers. “The competition rewards going above and beyond, I think, and so I don’t know if that so much incentivizes the student worker body as a whole, but it at least makes losing yourself in your job, or really committing to it, more attractive,” he said.
Balzer echoed this sentiment, saying, “It may be an incentive for some, but mainly, I hope it gets students a little more excited about their campus job. Even though it is a part time eight to 10-hour a week job on campus, in the post-college world, people who stand out in their occupation may encounter great opportunities from this, and I think it is important to show that this can begin in college with a part-time job.”
She went on, “In addition, when someone is recognized for a positive contribution, I hope it makes him/her realize that their efforts no matter how big or small matter to others.”
Platt also spoke to his own job in the Writing Center. According to him, a great worker has to love the work they are doing. ”I work at the Writing Center as one of two Head Consultants. It’s my favorite place, somewhere I feel myself, somewhere I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, somewhere that brings me energy. At the Writing Center, we work with students on their works (from essays, to creative, to cover letters etc), at any stage—from brainstorming an idea to working on a final draft. We’re trained to be hyper useful peers, to ask questions that push you toward a deeper understanding of your essay and of yourself as a writer,” he said.
The new program also highlights the issue of student work on campus. Though many have positive work experiences on campus, not everyone has enjoyed their time as student workers.
Elena Horvit ’16, a building manager, spoke to her views of student employment. “I think it depends on the job. I’ve had an awesome experience as a building manager this year, and I really hated my job at UpC last year. Vassar can be a different experience for people who have work-study jobs, for people who have to work weekend nights or really late hours on week nights.”
She continued, “Some nights I have to work ‘til 2 a.m. when I have class the next morning. Last year, I had to work until 2:30 a.m. every Friday night all year. Those things have sucked. But I’ve really loved the people I’ve met through work. I’ve found student employment to be a pretty flexible thing—little inconveniences, [though.]”
Platt’s comments worked against this idea. He praised the work the College has done for student workers on campus. “I think the College treats student workers really well, and it’s definitely doable for students to hold jobs while taking classes. It is a commitment though, like any other activity,” he said.
Horvit also expressed concern about the fact that many student employees didn’t know about the program until only a few days before the deadline of the nominations.
Overall, however, Balzer championed the work of Student Employment at Vassar. “Since I began working here in 2011, my goals for student employment always revolved around the students and employers. I truly believe that the campus and community benefit in so many ways from the student employment program and I’m just extremely happy to be able to celebrate and recognize those who contribute day to day,” she said.