Western celebrates impact of student workers on campus

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Students at Western Michigan University are empowered to learn through experience-driven education, and working on campus is one of the many avenues Broncos engage in. The University will celebrate student employee contributions to campus April 8 to 12 during National Student Employment Week. Observed annually during the second week of April, it recognizes students who work with enthusiasm, dedication and initiative to support the campus workforce.

"The work of student employees drives the University forward in supporting students' experiences both in and outside of the classrooms," says Amanda Jeppesen, student employment specialist.

Western currently employs about 2,800 student workers, and they are embedded into nearly every department and program at the University.

"As you walk through our beautiful campus, you are seeing the work of student employees in Landscape Services. When you grab food between class or between meetings, you are benefiting from services provided by student employees in Dining Services. During a play at Gilmore Theatre Complex, you are immersed in a reality designed and supported by student employees," Jeppesen says. "Every single experience you have at Western Michigan University has been influenced, executed or organized, in part, by student employees."

Students who work on campus also have the opportunity to work closely with professionals in an environment that supports on-the-job learning and growing as a professional, adds Jeppesen.

"Student employment positions foster leadership and are worthy of top billing on resumes because the expectations and stakes are high. Student employees graduate from WMU with core job skills that employers seek in new college graduates entering the professional workforce."


Every year, Western recognizes top talent with the Gary L. Belleville Student Employee of the Year and Student Advisor of the Year awards. New this year, the National Student Employment Association added more categories in addition to overall excellence that highlight student employees who go above and beyond in a number of crucial areas. This year's winners include:

Graduate Student Employee of the Year Overall Award

Jithendran Senthilkumar, an engineering management master's student, was nominated for his work as an office assistant for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His nominators highlighted his eagerness to learn and adapt as well as his open-mindedness to integrating new ideas. Senthilkumar also helped enhance the department's operations by suggesting a new method of organizing homework and test results that made them more secure. He also works as a liaison for graduate students and is committed to mentorship, supporting peers to success within the department.

Undergraduate Student Employee of the Year Overall Award


Muhammad Hassan Asif, a pre-aerospace engineering student, was nominated for his work as a customer service specialist with University Recreation. His nominators point out his dedication, professional growth and proactive approach to learning and development. They laud his community-building skills and outreach efforts while also highlighting his initiative to acquire new skills and versatility in taking on various tasks regardless of his position. Asif's commitment to excellence shines through in every aspect of his work, inspiring others and influencing the well-being of all members of the Western community.

Community Service Student Employee of the Year Award

Katelyn Frankel, a nursing student, is a lab assistant in the Bronson School of Nursing. Nominators say she not only excels in her assigned duties but "significantly surpassed" expectations in terms of her dedication to community service both at Western and the broader community. They note her efforts to improve operational efforts within the lab while also inspiring and encouraging her peers to engage more deeply with their community. Frankel also showcases exceptional care and professionalism in her community nursing classes and as a nurse extern at Bronson Hospital.

Critical Thinking Student Employee of the Year Award

Jaqueline Chavarria, a psychology and criminal justice studies student, was nominated for her work as a student receptionist in Lee Honors College. Her nominators lauded her exceptional abilities in multitasking, problem-solving and critical thinking. They also highlighted her initiative in creating and maintaining clear channels of communication, providing compassionate and constructive feedback and ability to use inclusive reasoning and judgment as ways she's contributed to enhancing the quality of service and the collaborative environment of the college.

Diversity and Inclusion Student Employee of the Year Award


Antonia Kistler Ellis, an exercise science and pre-nutrition and dietetics student, was nominated for her work as a GroupEx instructor in University Recreation. Nominators highlight Ellis' commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive and empowering environment for all participants and workers. Their holistic mission to create safe spaces where all individuals feel valued, heard and encouraged paired with innovative routines and a motivational atmosphere reflect a deep understanding of empathy and compassion provide inspiration and encouragement for everyone they work with—both on campus and in the community.

Leadership Student Employee of the Year Award

Collin Holzberger, a public and nonprofit administration student, was nominated for his role as lead student ambassador for the College of Education and Human Development. Nominators say he exemplifies leadership qualities that enrich the department and the entire University community. His dedication to mentorship and professional growth are evident to all who work with him, and his innovative initiatives to expand lines of communication with registered student organizations and peers have improved collaboration within the college. 

Supervisor of the Year Award

Dr. Brandon Youker was nominated for his role as director of the Evaluation Lab at The Evaluation Center. Nominators value his ability to foster an inclusive environment where every student evaluator feels heard. They call Youker's enthusiasm for evaluation and teaching "infectious" and his mentorship "transformative," highlighting the engaging and personalized learning environment he creates to prepare students for future careers and inspire them to pursue excellence in their fields.

Technology and Innovation Student Employee of the Year Award

Seth Falkenstein, a history student, was nominated for his work as a student activity assistant in the payroll and disbursements department. His nominators laud his extraordinary ability to leverage technology to enhance efficiency, productivity and decision-making processes within the department. They call his contributions in training coordination, email restructuring, website redesign and communication strategy improvement "transformational." He also provides crucial mentorship for fellow student co-workers, helping them become more proficient in the department's operations.

In addition to recognition at Western, winners’ names are 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.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.