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Hot on Campus | October 24, 2012

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Students earn work experience and a little extra money through school-sponsored jobs

Antonio Rodriguez (middle) takes friends on a kayaking trip to look for horseshoe crabs. (Courtesy photo)

Once a week, Emily Jones pockets a flashlight and a small radio and prowls around campus in the dark, checking the buildings for open doors. Her nocturnal excursions help bring in a little extra money while she's working on her degree.

Jones, a sophomore English major, is part of the security team at Grove City College, a Christian university in Pennsylvania. The night shift job fits perfectly with her schedule, getting her back to the dorm by 2 a.m. to grab a few hours of sleep before her morning classes. When she's not on patrol, Jones watches security camera monitors on the switchboard at the campus safety office.

"The school wants more eyes around campus for extra security, in case of an intruder or emergency," she said

Jones, like many other students, wanted to work while she was in school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 40 percent of full-time undergraduates work. Of those, more than half work between 20 and 34 hours a week. Studies show that students who work on-campus do better academically than students who work off campus.

Almost all colleges offer a variety of part time positions to their students, both on campus and in the surrounding communities. Because they're designed for students, the jobs tend to provide more flexibility than regular positions, making it easier for students to keep up with their studies.

Some jobs involve mundane tasks like janitorial work or answering phones. Professors sometimes offer specialty positions that include research or assistance with teaching. Most jobs offered to undergraduates are short term and don't have anything to do with their area of study. But sometimes, a school-sponsored job can help guide students toward a career.

Antonio Rodriguez, a junior biology major at Florida's Palm Beach Atlantic University, discovered his current job through an internship at Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management, organized by the school.

A few times a week, Rodriguez drives, kayaks, or swims to the beaches and muddy areas of the Lake Worth lagoon to check on the age, gender, and location of horseshoe crabs.

Rodriguez started doing the job after an internship with the county, during which he gatherd information on and worked with Florida's sea turtle population.

He continued working for the county after his internship ended, offering to do the horseshoe crab research on his own.

"I just offered to do it one day," Rodriguez said. "Then I was asked to do it again."

Horseshoe crabs love the lagoon areas, and Palm Beach has one of the larger populations of the species in the United States, Rodriguez said. Few places aside from Palm Beach have a large concentration of horseshoe crabs, so researchers collect as much information as possible for larger studies. They use the information to explain why the horseshoe crabs are important to the Palm Beach environment, Rodriguez said.

On several occasions, Rodriguez has invited friends to help him cover more ground for his research. Even two of his professors accompanied him on an information gathering trip. Rodriguez plans to continue his research into the future and hopes that the job will help him figure out what career path he wants to pursue.

"Surveying the lagoon and finding horseshoe crabs is more of an exciting hobby that I occasionally get paid for," he said.

While Rodriguez took an unusual route to his job, Jones got hers the traditional way--through the school department offering the work. She discovered the position when she went to pick up her parking pass from the campus safety office. She filled out an application right away.

"It beats working in the dish room, where I've worked before," she said. "It's a bit more exciting for a school job."