KALAMAZOO, Mich.—They mentor peers, make residence halls feel like home, serve up tasty treats in campus cafes and help keep our campus landscape beautiful; student employees are an integral part of Western Michigan University. Their impact will be celebrated across campus during National Student Employee Week, which runs April 9-15.
“Without our student employees, we would not be able to serve our community to such a high degree, and we would not have the same campus culture," says Amanda Jeppesen, coordinator of student employment in Career and Student Employment Services in Merze Tate College. "We celebrate Student Employee Appreciation Week to recognize all of the student employees who make Western Michigan University a wonderful place to study, live and grow.”
The University currently employs roughly 2,000 students, from cashiers to graduate assistants. In addition to performing tasks critical to keeping the institution running smoothly, students also benefit from on-campus employment and the opportunity to build interpersonal skills.
"Working part time as a student employee not only makes students more marketable to employers after graduation, it also can increase academic performance by helping develop time management skills," Jeppesen says. "Students are also connected with mentors who can help them successfully navigate important systems."
In honor of hardworking Broncos across campus, students will be treated to donuts at various locations throughout Student Employee Appreciation Week. A complete calendar of events is available below.
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 63 students and 44 supervisors were nominated for the honors. After much deliberation, a committee selected the following individuals for the 2023 awards:
Student Employee of the Year (undergraduate): Michon Jenkins Muhammad
Student Employee of the Year (graduate): Ja'Nae Jones
Student Employee Supervisor of the Year: Sue Murray
"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 were also submitted for consideration for regional awards through the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators and potentially national awards through the National Student Employee Association.
Jones is assistant hall director for Ackley/Shilling Hall. In her position with Housing and Residence Life, she supervises resident assistant and office managers in the hall, acts as the primary conduct officer for residents and routinely meets with students to help mediate challenges.
"Ja'Nae took on additional responsibilities this year by becoming a (graduate assistant) without a fulltime hall director. She has successfully gotten Ackley/Shilling back running after a year closure and has made it a place where students thrive and feel as though (they are) home," says her nominator.
The nominator also lauds Jones' efforts to reopen the residence hall and quickly prepare for staff move-in, calling her "instrumental."
"She did all of this and made the students feel like they were home right from the beginning," they add. "Many of her staff members struggled in the beginning of the year but have flourished since then, which has a lot to do with Ja'Nae's leadership."
The work is a testament to her character and her growth at Western, says the nominator.
"She has grown in maturity as well as her ability to advocate for herself and others. She is passionate about making the experience better for others, especially individuals of color. She has done all of this while also having her hardest classes for her program thus far."
MICHON JENKINS MUHAMMAD
Jenkins Muhammad, a music education and psychology student, is a second-tier academy leader in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Scholars Academy.
"Michon is reliable, responsible, has shown marked growth both personally and professionally, and her assigned scholars praise her and how she has assisted them as students here at WMU. She has definitely been an asset to our department," says her nominator.
While maintaining a busy academic schedule, Jenkins Muhammad is known to take on extra work and volunteer whenever possible with a "smile on her face" and has been "invaluable" to the program by suggesting ways to streamline workflow that have since been implemented and added to the training manual.
Her drive and willingness to go above and beyond stretches into her work with students as well.
"She makes her assigned scholars feel connected to the program as well as the University, and many of them have expressed an interest in being an academy leader based on their experience with her," the nominator says.
"She has a caring heart, is very relatable, focused and goes over and beyond for the department as well as students by making herself available, engaging in tough conversations and, when it is necessary, creating a plan."
Murray is director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Scholars Academy. In her position, she works with students who receive the MLK G.O.L.D. Scholarship and helps to facilitate their transition from high school to college as well as provides services and support to ensure they matriculate to graduation.
"On a daily basis, Mrs. Murray demonstrates the efforts of instilling a culture of diversity, inclusion and accountability amongst the student employees she oversees. I would describe her as an intellectual, restorative achiever who holds the passion to continue learning each day," says a nominator.
In her two years as supervisor, Murray has made a lasting impact on the students she works with, balancing care and support with delegation and clear direction.
Student employees say her flexibility and creative problem solving make her an ideal leader for the MLK Academy, and her genuine care for every student involved in the program is apparent.
"What makes Mrs. Murray so special is her ability to go above and beyond in learning more about the scholars that are a part of the program and figuring out who they are—not only as a student but as a person as well," Murray's nominator adds. "On a daily basis she shows her passion for the Academy and its objectives and inspires our team members to share that same excitement."
STUDENT EMPLOYEE APPRECIATION WEEK EVENTS
Donuts from Sweetwater's Donut Mill will be available to students throughout Student Employee Appreciation Week at the following locations:
Monday, April 10
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Atrium, College of Health and Human Services
1 to 3 p.m.: Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Trimpe Multicultural Center
Tuesday, April 11
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Ellsworth Hall and Schneider Hall
10 a.m. to noon: Main floor information desk, Brown Hall
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Main floor lobby, Bernhard Center
Wednesday, April 12
9 to 11 a.m.: Aviation Education Center, College of Aviation Campus and Dalton Hall
10 a.m. to noon: Lee Honors College
Thursday, April 13
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Main lobby, Sangren Hall
Noon to 2 p.m.: Main floor entrance, Floyd Hall
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.