Polk STEP Positions a Win-Win
There are many steps a student must take to complete their college career. There is the application step, completing financial aid forms, scheduling classes, learning to live with a roommate, working to complete classes, and planning graduation.
Through UWO’s Student Titan Employment Program, campus organizations such as Polk Library offer one more important STEP for students: professionally focused jobs that prepare students for the working world.
“I think it offers them real world experience with what they are actually going to be doing in their career and it kind of gives them a jump-start in it,” said former STEP intern David Hietpas, now a full-time Library Web Developer.
Chancellor Richard Wells created the innovative program to give students employment opportunities that are close to campus. Since the introduction of STEP in 2009, the positions offered by Polk have helped sharpen the skills of students hired on as interns. Currently the library offers three STEP internships: a web developer and two communications assistants.
Senior intern Nicholas Nadeau is one of six students to have worked the web developer position aimed at students studying computer science and information systems. Throughout the internship, the web developer produces software to enhance Polk’s digital presence.
Past STEP projects in use today include the computer availability application, the leisure reading website and the group scheduling tool, GroupFinder. Nadeau is currently working on a mobile website that will revamp the library’s approach to handheld devices.
“Every single STEP-intern that we have had pretty much got a job straight out of college,” Hietpas said. “They have leveraged all of that experience they got from us into their jobs.”
In the communications positions, senior interns Tom Beschta and Alyssa Brunner coordinate with Communications Librarian Joshua Ranger to develop library news and promotional content, particularly for the Polk newsletter and website. Beschta writes the initial articles, which are then sent to aspiring copy editor Brunner for a final polishing.
In the past three years, Ranger has worked with interns studying public relations and journalism. The students helped update the library’s website with promotions for events including the “All-Night Study” during the last week of classes and library resources such as RefWorks. Two other students held temporary STEP positions with the archives, including an art collection assistant and an historical interpretations specialist.
“I think it is a great opportunity,” Ranger said. “It allows us to provide unique learning opportunities for students while also getting important work done for the library.”
Beginning next semester, a third STEP position geared toward students studying anthropology, sociology and social psychology will be offered under Systems Librarian Craig Thomas. The idea behind the internship is to do an anthropological study to determine the information-seeking habits of students.
“This student is going to be involved really from the get-go in designing the study,” Thomas said.
The student will first analyze information from past studies and then will coordinate with Thomas and public service librarians to determine how to approach their research. The study will be a qualitative one that will focus on the behaviors and patterns of student research. With this information, Thomas said faculty will know how they can make life easier for students utilizing library resources.
In his short time at UWO, Thomas has been very impressed with the library STEP positions and the students who have held them.
“It has been wildly successful,” Thomas said.