Western celebrates impact of student employees on campus

Contact: Erin Flynn

Rachel Kirkolis, Ali Schroeder and Dr. Jennifer Harrison all received surprise visits from Buster as they were awarded for their outstanding work on campus—Kirkolis and Schroeder as student employees and Harrison as a supervisor.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Whether offering a friendly face and information to prospective students, leading complex research projects or washing dishes in the dining hall, Western Michigan University's student employees provide essential services to keep the institution running—and they build professional skills while doing it. The University will celebrate their contributions during National Student Employee Week, April 10-16.

“Western Michigan University could not function without its student employees, and being employed on campus is one of the best experiences our students can have before they start their full-time job searches," says Amanda Jeppesen, coordinator of student employment in Career and Student Employment Services in Merze Tate College.

The University employs roughly 3,500 students every year. In celebration of hardworking Broncos across campus, students will be treated to Tim Hortons iced coffee and Timbits in the lobbies of the Bernhard Center and Floyd Hall as well as the atrium of the College of Health and Human Services on Monday and Tuesday, April 11 and 12. Treats will be available beginning at 11 a.m. each day until supplies run out.


Western recognizes the top student employee and supervisor annually with the Gary L. Belleville Student Employee of the Year and Gary L. Belleville Supervisor of the Year awards. This year 62 students and 53 supervisors were nominated for the honors. After much deliberation, a committee selected the following individuals for the 2022 awards:

  • Student Employee of the Year (undergraduate): Rachel Kirkolis

  • Student Employee of the Year (graduate): Ali Schroeder

  • Student Employee Supervisor of the Year: Dr. Jennifer Harrison

"We're honored to recognize these outstanding individuals for their great work and their commitment to go above and beyond in support of Western and the greater community," Jeppesen says.

In addition to being celebrated at Western, the award recipients will also be considered for regional awards through the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators and potentially national awards through the National Student Employee Association.


Kirkolis, an exercise science student from Channahon, Illinois, works in the Office of Admissions. She began as a tour guide and progressed into the role of daily operations manager, responsible for scheduling dozens of student employees and overseeing several positions within the office.

Video of Western Michigan University Undergraduate Student Employee of the Year

"Rachel problem-solves at the level of a student affairs professional," her nominator says, lauding Kirkolis as the "go-to person" for student ambassadors. "Rachel's professionalism is unmatched. She always comes in looking and acting professional, she handles situations in a non-judgemental way, and she manages the intense workload in our office with another internship that she holds within her program."

As important as her support for her peers and the University's mission is Kirkolis' impact on the future of the institution. She is on the front line of welcoming prospective students and families to campus and does so with grace and enthusiasm.

"When she interacts with prospective students and their families, she displays a sense of warmth and welcoming as she educates them about the University," her nominator writes. "Rachel interacts with all student ambassadors, supervisors and prospective students and their families with respect, understanding and inclusivity."


Schroeder, a behavioral analysis doctoral student from suburban Boston, Massachusetts, works as a clinical supervisor at the Kalamazoo Autism Center.

Video of Western Michigan University Graduate Student Employee of the Year

"When she was hired, Ali was given several clients displaying difficult and challenging behaviors," her nominator says, calling her a tremendous asset to the office. "Ali quickly familiarized herself with these clients and succeeded in reducing their challenging behaviors by teaching functional replacement skills and working closely with parents to maintain the reduction of these behaviors at home."

In addition to providing skilled service to clients, Schroeder balances her clinical responsibilities with her academic course work and also finds time to mentor a graduate student who is working toward board certification.

"Ali is respected by her trainees, and they enjoy being a part of her treatment teams," another nominator writes. "As a result of her commitment to the quality of training of future practitioners, Ali will be impacting countless lives for years to come."


Harrison is an associate professor and director of Western's School of Social Work. Her nominator, a graduate research assistant, recognized Harrison's impactful presence from her first interview.

Video of Western Michigan University Student Employee Supervisor of the Year

"Her questions showed her sincere curiosity. After talking, she would paraphrase me and cite my strengths, leaving me feeling validated and important. She valued me as a person not just a prospective employee," the nominator says. "Her ability to expertly dance the line of role model and support system is so impressive."

That sincerity has only grown during the nearly two years they have worked together.

"Dr. Harrison regularly writes postcards and letters with encouragement and well wishes and mails them to me," says the nominator. "Graduate school, my internship and working during a pandemic has a lot of ups and downs. Dr. Harrison truly cares about me and puts extra effort in to support me during the lows and takes time to celebrate my accomplishments and accolades."

Harrison's genuine interest in her students' success empowers them to confidently pursue their field of study while bolstering their professional skills.

"Above and beyond, she truly and deeply cares," the nominator says. "The empowerment I have gained as a result of her mentorship is creating a direct positive impact in the community as well. I am better equipped to collaborate with my colleagues and serve my clients. Thanks to Dr. Harrison's empowerment, I am a more effective social worker."

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