New Work-Study Process Matches
Students with Job Interests
by Greta Petry (December 10,
From the left, work-study
students Esther Spencer, Zakhar Berkovich,
and Jenny Rulison gain job skills in the
Division of University Advancement.
Work-study jobs have always been an important
source of income for the University at Albany
students who qualify for them. The income helps
students cover the bills that come with living
on one’s own.
This academic year, the University has introduced
a new element of choice to the process. Several
work-study students in the Division of University
Advancement say this change has made a big difference
in their work experience.
Esther Spencer, 20, a junior from Brooklyn,
and Jenny Rulison, a 20-year-old senior from
Mayfield, both work for the Office of Media
& Marketing on the second floor of the University
Spencer said, “As a returning third-year student,
I am quite familiar with the work-study system.
I was quite pleased with the new online application
process that went into effect for the fall 2004
semester.” Through this new system, students
match up their interests with the jobs available.
Rulison, who transferred to UAlbany from a
local community college, said while filling
out the online forms was a bit more work, “I
didn’t mind the extra work because I had the
opportunity to choose where I would work.”
Freshman Zakhar Berkovich, 18, used the new
system to find his job in the Office of the
Vice President for University Advancement.
Berkovich’s family moved to Staten Island
from Minsk in Belarus in January 2001. He said
his family members were refugees who left Belarus
because of religious intolerance.
While Berkovich has not experienced the old
work-study assignment system, he said, “I do
like to choose. The whole American country is
about freedom of choice. So I can have a choice
in education and in selecting a job.”
Federal Work Study Coordinator Diane Corbett
of the Office of Financial Aid said the University
looked into the new system after Director of
Financial Aid Dennis Tillman found many other
colleges and universities use systems by which
students select their jobs online.
In the end the decision was made to use the
Web-based software system JobX by Foresite Solutions.
“This was a significant change from the way
we were doing business in terms of job placements,”
Corbett said. In the past, new students were
generally assigned to jobs randomly. However,
continuing students were given the opportunity
to select one department from Financial Aid’s
list of departments employing work-study students.
If the department requested by a student was
filled, Financial Aid would then decide where
to assign the student. “Unfortunately, we had
no career or academic interest available when
making this decision,” Corbett said.
Spencer had worked for an archaeology professor
in the Department of Anthropology; Rulison had
been assigned to the Office of Diversity and
Affirmative Action. While each picked up skills
in her respective office, neither was working
in a field related to her major.
Spencer, a native of Trinidad, is a business
major with a concentration in finance/management
information systems. Rulison is also a business
major, with a concentration in marketing and
The new system, according to Corbett, allows
both the student and the employer to become
more active in the job selection process. For
example, Janis Kent, a secretary in Media &
Marketing, submitted a brief job description
detailing the duties involved, the hours needed,
and the required computer skills.
Corbett said, “Work-study employers post jobs
on the site, then review and respond to all
job applicants. The employer decides whom they
want to hire, providing more autonomy in terms
of hires. From the student perspective, the
new job selection system provides more of a
‘real world’ scenario in that they complete
an application and communicate directly with
their prospective employer.”
For Rulison, the new work-study process helped
her explore marketing even though there wasn’t
room in her academic schedule for a full marketing
For Spencer, this wasn’t an issue, since she
already had a finance internship during the
summer at Lehman Brothers in Manhattan, an experience
she hopes to repeat.
As part of Rulison’s work-study experience
this semester, she surveyed students in the
Campus Center to determine whether there is
interest in competing in the World’s Largest
Pillow Fight for the Guinness
World Records. At least 3,500 students
are needed to participate in order to qualify
for the contest. A separate assignment was to
encourage students to sign up for Go2Events.
Rulison said her marketing tasks have been
a real eye-opener. “I am very shy around people,”
she said. “I had to force myself to go up to
students when I was conducting the survey. This
experience has given me more self-confidence.”
Rulison found there is a lot of interest in
the pillow fight contest and it may be held
during the spring semester at Collins Circle
on a Sunday.
As part of Spencer’s job, she finds answers
to the many general information questions that
are e-mailed to the University each day. On
the average, she fields about 10 questions a
day, and more than 20 on a Monday. She also
organizes the news clips. Each day the Media
& Marketing office checks the newspapers
for articles about the University and its professors,
clips them, and sends them electronically to
about 150 people. Through this task, Spencer
said she has learned about fields of study she
didn’t even know the University offered, like
Rulison plans to go straight into the work
world upon graduation in May, and hopes to one
day own her own business. Spencer plans on working
in finance for about five years, and then going
to graduate school. Berkovich’s dream is to
become a physician through the University’s
arrangement with Albany Medical College, through
which he hopes to be accepted to medical school
in his sophomore year.
A biology major, he was still in high school
when he was certified as a Microsoft Office
specialist. He sought an assignment in an administrative
office, where he uses his computer skills. Berkovich
believes understanding technology is important
for a future physician in a high-tech world.
He has been “on loan” to Media & Marketing,
helping the office to enhance an Excel database
of newspaper articles about the University that
used to be kept in binders.
“Being in the 21st century, we decided to
put it on the computer,” he said.
All three students take their work-study jobs
Having worked since she was 14, Spencer said
she knows the importance of being responsible.
“This is an actual office,” she said. “People
are depending on you.”
Corbett concluded, “Students have responded
very positively to the work-study Web site and
made the transition without difficulty. At this
point in time, we have 896 hires through the
work-study Web site. In my opinion, this was
a significant move forward for the University,
and I am pleased to have been a part of it.”