As one of the largest employers of student workers at UNLV, the Libraries are investing in a workshop program to connect students with important skills that extend beyond what they acquire through their traditional job assignment. The UNLV Libraries’ Professional Development Certificate Program for student assistants is a series of one-hour workshops that are designed to enhance professional skills and support academic success.
The initial series of courses was developed from survey feedback from student assistants and their supervisors to focus on the most desirable skills or training. Eight library faculty and staff volunteers, the Student Employment Leadership Group (SELG), manage the program. Each semester, the SELG reviews workshop participation feedback to shape future offerings. Workshop topics range from effective communication skills to Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint to in-depth research skills.
Library student assistants participate in an interactive communication exercise focused on developing verbal communication and effective listening skills.
Student assistants are enthusiastic and committed to participating. With more than 20 specific workshop topics offered since the program was first piloted in spring 2012, total student attendance exceeds 650. Equally exciting is the news that 23 students have been awarded a UNLV Libraries’ Professional Development Certificate by Dean Iannuzzi this academic year.
To receive their certificate, student assistants must complete six courses, within four core skill areas: academic, library and research, professional, and technology. The students may complete the program over the course of multiple semesters, and the program culminates with a reflective essay on their experience gained through their participation.
Feedback from certificate recipients has been overwhelmingly positive. For recent graduate Heather Rhodes, who majored in environmental science, her experience echoed the value that the program is adding to the student employment experience at the Libraries. Heather states, “It feels good to be invested in and that’s what I feel this program is doing. The library is investing in its student employees.”
The positive reception and participation rate of the student employees has validated SELG efforts to support UNLV Libraries Dean Iannuzzi’s vision for adding value to the co-curricular experience of student assistants working in the Libraries. The program would not be possible without her backing. “She made it a priority to develop a comprehensive program to give student assistants in the Libraries tools that not only help them while in college but also after graduation and in their future lives—the practical knowledge to meet their career goals and rise to the top,” SELG member and UNLV Libraries HR Manager Kimberly Kaplan reiterates.
This semester, student assistants will have the opportunity to connect with resources on campus through three workshops taught by campus partners. The workshops on Excel, Healthy Shopping on a Budget, and Time Management / Study Cycle are a result of the Libraries continued partnership with the Academic Success Center and the Office of Information Technology and a new partnership with the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences. Other workshop offerings, including: Dig into Databases, Photoshop, and StrengthsQuest™ (which helps students achieve academic, career, and personal success) are offered by Libraries faculty and staff. Other campus partners have included Human Resources, Career Services, and Counseling and Mental Health (CAPS).
Next for the Libraries and SELG is to begin the process of measuring the long-term benefits the certificate program and workshops add to the academic and professional success of the students who participate. Both student supervisors and student assistants have shared an array of benefits from increased skill sets to improved morale in the workplace. SELG co-chair Amanda Melilli, Head of the Curriculum Materials Library, explains that improved job satisfaction is apparent with the participating students. “I’ve noticed they take more pride in their work and they want to take on more responsibility,” she adds.
Tiffany Turner, a business major, who recently received a certificate from the program stated, “Because of the workshops offered and the skills I’ve been able to acquire by attending these workshops, I no longer look at my student worker position as just a job, but as a platform to grow and learn.”