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Whole people working and studying

Imagine bringing all of your work and educational experiences together to provide the greatest benefit for you and others.

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While schools currently offer work-study jobs and encourage or require an internship phase before graduation, these structures are still not always effectively utilizing a student’s prior work experience and/or cannot be directly applied to a student’s future career.

Many students come to college with years of prior work experience, but their skills do not translate into the current academic structure. On the other hand, many students go to school for years but do not gain work experience, and have to start fresh in the job market upon graduation.

What if there was a way to bridge the gap between the academic world and the career world? What if you could apply your previous work experience for college credit? Or if you haven’t had a job before, what if you could get valuable experience and build a solid resume while pursuing your college degree? Could this be designed in a more holistic way as compared to a traditional academic structure?

Students with years of experience in a job field could manage or help teach courses. Students who have never worked will get valuable work experience while earning course credit. There could be an option to work off campus if the desired field not available on campus, with assignments connecting academic and work experiences. For students that are parents and/or are interested in studying early childhood education, an on campus co-op style daycare could be free in exchange for a certain number of hours working in the daycare.

Ideally, every student would work in food service for one semester. This would provide invaluable knowledge and experience for people who otherwise would’ve never worked in food service. As a service that most people in our society utilize often, a lot of misunderstandings about the roles and responsibilities of food service workers take place between the workers and the customers. Having every student exposed to this experience would bridge the gap in understanding and provide a smoother experience for everyone involved.

Some inspirational examples include:

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has seven student-run businesses: the Bicycle Co-op, Campus Design and Copy, Earthfoods Vegetarian Cafe, Greeno Sub Shop, People's Market, Sweets N' More, and Sylvan's Snack Bar. Each business provides a laboratory for hands-on management experience, as every one is collectively operated and overseen by dedicated undergraduate UMass students. (

Long Island University Post has eight student-run businesses: Browse (an authorized Apple retailer), The End Zone (lounge and sports bar), The Gallery shop (art space), LIU:iQ Consulting (client-paid consulting program), Pioneer Nation (college apparel), Pioneer Wagon (food truck), Post Treat Shoppe (snack store), Pratt Smoothie Bar, and The Student Body (clothing and accessories).  (

According to a 2015 study from Georgetown University, over the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school. More students over the age of 25 are enrolling in college, and come with previous work experience. Students work an average of 30 hours a week, and about 25 percent are full-time students with full-time jobs. (

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual
  • A classroom or academic assignment

Tell us about your work experience:

I have 15 years of experience in the food service industry. I've worked as a restaurant server and hostess, a line cook, a pastry chef, and a cookie delivery driver. I've also been a college teaching assistant and a personal shopper. I've been a full-time college student for the past three years, and currently work part-time.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Imagine bringing all of your work and educational experiences together to provide the greatest benefit for you and others.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Alexina

I really like your idea Erin, especially because I feel like this is something that is such a big deal for students but is never addressed. What are some student run ideas you have now that could possibly take effect? I know at some universities there are already student run clubs or organizations, so do you think it would be something for schools to consider to actually pay students who are running those as well? Or just work related jobs and not clubs/ organizations?

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