From geckos to GO Trips, student workers assist various departments

Student Workers
Student Workers
When she’s not doing tasks related to display animals, Rachel Horton, junior nursing major, tackles multiple tasks in White Hall as a part of her role as a biology lab assistant. | Photo by Matt McDaniel

From praying behind the scenes to rounding up escaped lab mice, student worker positions offer students unique opportunities for involvement across campus.

Nearly every office and department on Union’s campus employs student workers, offering students part-time, minimum-wage positions to work with and learn from faculty members in their field of study.

“Since most of our student workers are working within departments where they are majoring, they provide critical services while gaining skills which may be part of their future job descriptions,” said Susan Johnson, secretary of Union’s Humanities suite. She coordinates the hours of six student workers. “Obviously, this gives faculty freedom to focus on their highest priorities and allows them to be more productive.”

While student worker jobs may not sound glamorous, Rachel Horton, junior nursing major, said she has been far from bored during her two years as a biology lab assistant.

“This year I’m taking care of the display animals and the immunology mice,” Horton said. These animals, which reside in White Hall, include geckos, a turtle, scorpions and a tarantula, as well as 15 cages of mice.

The mice like to bite, Horton said, and sometimes they wriggle free while she cleans their cages and run around the lab before she recaptures them.

“It’s a dirty job sometimes,” she said with a laugh.

Horton’s most unusual assignment was to “siphon water out of a tank with my mouth,” she said. “We were cleaning a salamander tank … and instead of just getting a beaker and dumping water into the bucket … there’s a tube, and you have to suck on it for enough time for the water to spill over, but you’ve got to be careful that you don’t swallow it.”

Horton also grades papers, cleans glassware and prepares materials for labs.

“I’ll make all kinds of solutions before the lab so the professor doesn’t have to do it,” she said.

This semester, Horton works six to seven hours each week with two different professors, although in the past she has assisted up to four.

“You get to know the professors in that field really well. I’ve made so many connections,” she said. “Before, professors didn’t really know who I was … but as a lab assistant I really get to connect with them, and they learn who you are and you learn about them because you work so closely together.”

On the opposite side of campus, senior nursing major Kristen Reed works in the recently renamed Office of University Ministries, formerly the Office of Spiritual Life. Reed said she has worked in the office since 2010, her freshman year.

Student Workers
Kristen Reed, senior nursing major, has served as a student worker in the Office of University Ministries since her freshman year. | Photo by Matt McDaniel

“My sister worked there and graduated the spring before I started in the fall, so she recommended me and I took her position,” Reed said.

Reed’s daily schedule is unpredictable, as she works with all the OUM staff members.

“They just send me to whoever may need help that day,” she said. “I do a lot of data entry into the computer, running errands, manning the desk if Elizabeth [Ward] is out.”

This semester Reed only works four hours per week, but in past semesters she worked up to 15.

“An average day might look like me manning the desk for a little while, answering a few phone calls, then doing some data entry into the computer for GO Trip money, then running a few errands on campus,” Reed said.

The best part of Reed’s work is “the great staff members that I get to work for,” she said.

Reed said she probably would not have become as involved in campus ministries if she had not seen behind the scenes as a student worker.

“I was able to see how much time and prayer people put into the ministries and how devoted they are to pouring into the lives of others,” she said. “When I was a freshman, and involved in Life Groups, for example, I didn’t really realize how much time was devoted to praying for each of us in the group and how much the leaders had to sacrifice.”

Witnessing this prayer and sacrifice has inspired and equipped Reed for any future ministries she might be involved in, she said.
Johnson added that faculty members are grateful for the assistance and many of the student workers view their faculty employers as mentors.

“Conversations regarding life stories are shared, questions about post-graduation are asked– students benefit from the wisdom of the faculty’s life experiences,” she said.


Students can apply for work positions with their department’s office coordinator at the beginning of each semester.

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream
About Kate Benedetti 30 Articles
Staff writer Kate Benedetti ('14) is a creative writing major and journalism minor from Collierville, Tennessee. Her passions include Motown, bad science fiction, and ice cream sandwiches. Peeves include misplaced apostrophes and flagrant abuse of the word "meme."