An education at Wichita State University offers concrete advantages that transform students into professionals, and recent improvement projects around campus illustrate how hiring Shockers offers advantages to employers as well.
Wichita State is spending about $60 million to construct its new residence facility, Shocker Hall, and Dondlinger & Sons Construction, GSI Engineering and Andale Ready Mix are hiring WSU students to work on it. Being employed on a campus construction project gives student workers valuable experience and flexibility, and employers get educated employees with a demonstrated desire to grow.
Part of Wichita State's mission is to provide its students with the edge that experience-based learning offers, and WSU's Office of Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning is at the center of that effort.
"Students who participate in our program graduate not only with their degree, but experience in their chosen career field, giving them a competitive edge in today's job market," said Kim Kufahl, co-op marketing manager.
Jacob Arnold, a senior majoring in engineering technology and management, works for Dondlinger, a company noted for constructing landmarks all over Kansas, including Intrust Bank Arena, Exploration Place and Charles Koch Arena.
Before attending WSU, Arnold was working his own small construction jobs, which he says were hard to come by. While on campus for enrollment, Arnold noticed the Dondlinger crews working on Shocker Hall and decided to introduce himself. Because of his initiative and experience, Arnold was hired on as a carpenter and tasked with a variety of jobs, from pouring footings to installing windows and more.
"My superintendent knows the importance of my school work, so he is very flexible," said Arnold. "Being an engineering student at Wichita State helped build my resume. I've had discussions with the owner of the company, and my hope is that once I graduate I can re-apply for an assistant project manager or field engineer position."
Another student employee working on campus construction is Mike Balleau, a junior studying geology. He is a nontraditional student employed by GSI, and has worked as a materials technician doing quality assurance and materials testing for the Shocker Hall project.
Balleau was referred to GSI by other students as a way to gain field experience. He says that while his work collecting samples and running tests is unglamorous, it's a critical job, especially with how quickly the new residence hall has taken shape.
Between semesters, Balleau's job has given him the opportunity to travel and learn at distant sites. He says the experience-based learning component of his education makes him a valuable employee.
"WSU provided me with time management skills that transition well into the workplace," he said, "and my geology major gives me knowledge of soils and sands for use in GSI's lab."
Wichita State alumni also play a role in updating and improving the campus. Chris Carney, who graduated in December 2012 with a degree in business administration, is a field supervisor of quality control at Andale Ready Mix.
As a student at WSU, Carney worked in the quality control department of an engineering firm testing concrete and construction materials. That led to his current job at Andale Ready Mix overseeing concrete mix testing for civil, industrial, commercial and residential projects.
"I believe my degree from WSU prepared me for the everyday challenges of working in a small business," said Carney. "With Andale Ready Mix, I have the opportunity to participate in customer service, quality control, scheduling and even new product development and marketing projects, all of which were a large part of the general business curriculum at WSU."
Making a difference
For companies that hire Shockers, re-investing in the community is an important factor, and while GSI isn't currently participating in WSU's co-op program, it does have a long-standing history of promoting education and learning.
"Our work with Dondlinger at WSU, as well as many other projects, improves the community," said Blane Wood, GSI client service manager. "I think that it allows our employees to be more involved. We hire a number of students, mainly as summer interns, and most of them come back, either for further internships or as full-time employees."
Dondlinger, GSI and Andale Ready Mix hire students not only to benefit themselves, but as another way to invest in the community. They're opening windows for future professionals.
"Doing this job is incredible," said Arnold. "It's such a good learning opportunity. The work here is fast paced and I feel like I'm learning something new every day. Being a student employee really makes a difference."