At Puget Sound, student staff members hold important roles and contribute in vital ways to the function and success of our campus community. In addition to a regular paycheck, they gain valuable workplace experience and develop skills that will be useful throughout their professional lives. And sometimes? Sometimes they even uncover a career path.

In celebration of Student Employment Month, CES invited current supervisors who served as student staff members during their time at Puget Sound to talk about how their on-campus employment impacted their career path.

First up is Rachael Shelden ’12 MAT ’13, who worked in the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching (CWLT) as a peer Writing Advisor. Today, Rachael serves as CWLT’s Learning Support Services Coordinator.

CES: Briefly describe your role as a student staff member and what you most enjoyed and/or found challenging about the role.

Rachael: One of the most challenging parts of the job when I first started was developing the intellectual flexibility to switch back and forth between different papers written by different people in different disciplines!

I might start my two-hour shift reading a first-year seminar paper on the themes in Homer’s Odyssey, and then shift gears to read an IPE senior thesis, with only ten minutes in between to get my head on straight. However, this quickly became my favorite part of the job–I enjoyed learning about so many different topics within my appointments, and making connections between different fields’ writing styles and ways of knowing. I emerged from this job a much better writer myself, but also a more critical thinker, able to see areas of overlap and unanswered questions. More than any other experience I had on campus, the CWLT taught me to appreciate the value of the liberal arts education.

CES: How did this early work experience impact your career path?

Rachael: My job as a Writing Advisor totally changed my career path.

I always knew I liked writing and thinking, and often imagined myself in a career as a journalist, a lawyer, or perhaps with a non-profit. However, my experiences at the CWLT showed me that I felt most like myself when I was working closely with other people to share my excitement for ongoing learning. So I pursued a Master of Arts in Teaching and returned to the CWLT as a full-time staff member in fall 2013.

As a writing advisor, I learned skills that were really helpful in navigating the working world after college. I learned how to ask good questions, how to listen closely to other people, and how to work collaboratively with others to solve problems. As a young professional, these skills have helped me a lot–I am constantly learning from my students and colleagues, seeking feedback on my work and trying to improve, and tinkering with enhancements to our program to make the CWLT a better place to learn.

CES: How did your experience as a Writing Advisor impact the way you now approach student supervision?

Rachael: I love my job at the CWLT, but my absolute favorite part is supervising and mentoring our wonderful team of peer tutors; they’re the reason I do this work.

As a supervisor, I really value the ideas and contributions of my student employees. They have much energy and enthusiasm, plus a fresh perspective, so I try to involve them in assessing and improving our services whenever possible. The CWLT is a student-driven space, and I rely on our student employees to make their campus job a true professional experience by partnering with me to build a strong program.

I think this attitude is shared by many of my campus colleagues, but I know for sure that this commitment has been shaped by my time as an undergraduate Writing Advisor. The reason I’m able to be in this role today is because I had supervisors who saw my potential and trusted me with real responsibility, so I try my best to do the same.

Photos courtesy of Rachael Shelden
© 2019 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound