February 24, 2017
Writer: Dain Knudson
Many college students view their part-time job as simply a way to pay for their tuition and living expenses. But for students in the Department of Information Technology's Process Improvement Office, student jobs are tailored to provide specific experience and real-world application.
Anne Stott, director of the Process Improvement Office, hopes the student tailored experience is meaningful to each individual part-time employee.
"Our goal was to have students become leaders very quickly, and give them full scale work and responsibility so that when they leave our organization they will be prepared for the real world," Stott said.
The IT Department created the Process Improvement Office last summer with the focus on maintaining and improving the department through support, communication, content management, planning, training, research,DIRECTORworkflows and processes, and change management. This is accomplished by an entirely student-staffed office.
Katie Austin began working in the Department of Information Technology two and half years ago as a student secretary. Eventually, she was moved to a communication position that was a better fit for her degree in public relations. NowKatie oversees the Department Relations within the Process Improvement Office, managing other students who hope to gain similar real-world experience.
"We have a student who is really good at writing and has a lot of skills in that area, but this semester she wanted to learn more about communications and working with people, so we moved her over to another team where she helps produce our newsletter and works directly with our councils," Austin said. "It gives us the opportunity to work with students to help them go where they want to go."
The knowledge these student employees gain is just as pertinent to their fields of study as the material they learn in the classroom. This combined with the mentoring of full-time staff help to retain their student workforce at a high level.
"We believe in making a personal investment in our students," Stott said.
That investment has seen its fair share of payoffs. The recently updated I.T. website was written, designed, and even coded mostly by students.
"The work that is coming out of this office is coming out from the students," Stott said. "I do some hand holding when needed, but for the most part we put our trust in the students."
I.T. Department Communication Coordinator Jordan Davidson worked on the website as a student before being hired full-time after graduation.
"It was really valuable to me personally and professionally learning how to write for an audience that might not be overly technical," Davidson said. "It was valuable in that I learned how to take really technical concepts with a lot of acronyms and language that I didn't get at first and turn it into something that a non-technical person could understand."
Tyler Brown, a student employee who recently switched his majorfrom computer science to software engineering, saw increased success in his classes because of the projects he was working on related to the website.
"I took a web engineering class which taught me basic HTML and CSS, so at the beginning of that class I thought it would be simple," Brown said. "I ended up learning a lot, but the experience I had building the website for I.T. really set me up for success in that class."
The principles of work, student growth, and learning by doing, in the Department of Information Technology, have not only influenced the role of each student, but full-time employees as well.
I.T. Department Support Specialist Jenifer Craner says that the workplace is a unique and effective place to teach students.
"Many people ask me how it is teaching on campus and I always correct them that I am not a faculty, but I do teach. I teach life, working, and business skills. We are all about educating," Craner said.
BYU-Idaho's I.T. Department is improving and is seeing increased collaboration and dedication to common goals as students come together, recognize their potential, and use the Spirit to guide their efforts.
"We believe fully in creating disciple leaders. We encourage this by providing as many hand-on, real-life working experiences as we can, coupled with a strong emphasis on utilizing the guidance and teachings of the Spirit," Stott said. "It has transformed our office."
Davidson, who has experience on both the student and employee side of the I.T. Department, believes that the learning model is central to their workplace.
"I have seen that when the learning model is properly implemented, there isn't a limit to what you can do," Davidson said.