SMU Student Employment

Being a student at Southern Methodist University (SMU) is already a full-time job, but thousands of SMU students seek part-time employment throughout their college years.

SMU students work for an abundant of various reasons. Some students work to pay their own tuition while others work to afford rent for off-campus housing (apartments and the like) or on-campus room and board. These payments are hefty and are rising steadily.

“Tuition has recently grown the fastest at public and private non-profit institutions, for which tuition has gone up 65% and 50%, respectively, since 2000,” said USA Facts in a 2019 analysis.

While some students work just to be able to stay in school, others work for extra spending money or to be able to join other student organizations, such as Greek life or other clubs.

The top five reasons why college students work include: to help meet their financial needs, to gain experience in their field, to build up an employment history for use on resumes, to do something productive and for social and personal connections, said an article from The Tab.

“Each student is different, and it is part of our mission to help students balance their academic goals, social activities and part-time employment,” said SMU’s Student Employment Office (SEO).

Considering SMU’s reputation for having an ambitious and extremely busy student population, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that most students work while in school.

In fact, a 2018 US Department of Education report indicates that 43 percent of all full-time undergraduate students and 81 percent of part-time students were employed and worked at least 10 hours a week while enrolled.

We can assume the various reasons why SMU students work throughout their college careers, but where are they working, and how many hours are they working?

Working to Help Meet Financial Needs

Mikayla (Kayla) Hernandez, a senior at SMU majoring in Biochemistry with minors in Spanish, Mathematics and Neuroscience, has held five jobs since starting at SMU nearly four years ago.

Her first job was working at SMU, serving as a writing tutor in the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC). Hernandez worked up to ten hours a week, and her duties consisted of making herself “available either in-person or online to assist other SMU students with different pieces of writing. These pieces could be anything from resumes to class assignments or applications,” said Hernandez.

Kayla Hernandez is a senior SMU student that has worked five jobs since beginning her college career.
“Working and being a full-time student has taught me that the world is extremely fast-paced and relatively unforgiving. In general, it is up to you ,and you only to work hard enough to keep up with the demands of life,” said Hernandez. | Photo by Kayla Hernandez

Being a tutor isn’t her only employment opportunity provided by SMU. For the past two years, Hernandez has worked as a Resident’s Assistant (RA) in McElvaney Commons, one of 11 on-campus Residential Commons. You may consider Residential Commons to be SMU’s form of dormitories, as many other college institutions call them.

“As an RA, I am required to monitor the state of the building and ensure the safety of residents while upholding SMU’s Student Code of Conduct,” she said. “This job has odd hours, as I am expected to perform my duties at all hours of the day, but I would classify this role as a 20-hours-a-week commitment.”

Finally, Hernandez has worked up to 10 hours a week as a lifeguard at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (JCC), served as a youth swimming instructor, also at the JCC, for up to 10 hours a week, and is currently working as a private tutor for a local high school student for 10 hours a week, of course, while still serving her McElvaney Commons community as an RA.

“I chose to work during college as a way to earn extra spending money for myself and as a way to gain experience for my resume,” Hernandez said. “As someone looking to enter the medical field it is important to show your experience working in teams and with and for other people in a variety of capacities.”

It’s a lot of work being a full-time SMU student with multiple jobs, said Hernandez. Kayla is part of the 11 percent of full-time college students who has worked 10 to 19 hours each week throughout school, according to a 2018 National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) report on college student employment. As of 2018, 53 percent of full-time college students work while in school, said the NCES report.

“On top of my paid work, I also volunteer for organizations on campus, so I often find myself spread very thin. That being said, it is an extremely rewarding experience being able to push myself and earn my own money while I study.”

Working part-time while in school allows college students to have a more structured schedule. In college, there is a lot more “down time,” as some students may only have class for a couple hours on some days. With all that extra time not in class, college students find themselves still wishing to be productive and contribute to their school or community in some manner.

Working to Do Something Productive

Molly Lipsett is a junior at SMU majoring in Engineering Management, Information and Systems (EMIS) as well as Mathematics and is minoring in History.

Molly Lipsett is a junior SMU student working as Equipment Manager for the SMU Mustangs Football team.
“Being a full-time student and working can be stressful, especially if I have to work over 20 hours,” Lipsett said. “Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have enough time to finish everything and sleep but, typically, I really enjoy it.” | Photo by Molly Lipsett.

Lipsett works 15 to 20 hours a week, Monday through Friday, as Equipment Manager for the SMU Mustangs Football team. In her role, she is paid to organize and distribute gear and equipment as well as help set up for football games.

“I chose to work because I wanted to have a more structured schedule. I am more successful when I have structure and less free time,” Lipsett said. “Working and being a student has really taught me time management and how to work on a structured schedule; both have contributed to my success as a student.”

Working to Build Up an Employment History for Use on Resumes

Listen to Abba Yaney as she expresses the lessons she’s learned from working while in college.
Abba Yaney has recently started her first career job, working for the City of Plano as a marketing specialist. | Photo by Sarah Blaze Photography.

Exemplifying another one of the top five reasons why college students choose to work throughout school is Abigail (Abba) Yaney, SMU senior majoring in Public Relations and Strategic Communication and Psychology.

Yaney has held numerous jobs throughout her college career, including nannying for multiple families, working in SMU’s Office of the Provost and other paid internships that weren’t for credit.

SMU students choose to work part-time while enrolled as full-time students for a variety of reasons, but it is becoming more common for students to choose to do so. It is likely that this trend will continue, especially considering the recent pandemic’s financial impact on families and students alike. Two-thirds of college students have said the pandemic has changed their outlook on their financial future, according to CNBC’s Michelle Gao and WalletHub’s 2020 College Student Financial survey. “Most college students are working as they study, but the amount and type of work varies widely. And the forces behind those variances aren’t random,” said Inside Higher Ed.

3 Ways to Write an Email Worthy of a Response

When your boss or professor finally gets out of that meeting or sits their butt down on the couch after a long day, the last thing they want is a complicated, emotional and senior-thesis-length email popping up in their inbox.

To avoid being dragged straight to the trash icon, you might want to keep these 3 simple tips in mind:

TIP #1: Keep it clear and concise

These words may haunt you for all eternity, but they’re truer than fedoras always being a mistake. You might as well suck it up and let the words “clear and concise” become a part of your DNA.

When writing a professional email, you must have one goal in mind. Whether you’re wanting clarification on a homework assignment or giving notes for tomorrow’s meeting, you have to say so…fast.

If your boss doesn’t know what you want or have to say within the first paragraph of your email, hand in your resignation now.

To be clear and concise, you need to be brief. State the who-what-when-where-why-how as soon as possible. If you want a response at their “earliest convenience,” your correspondence should be convenient too. Mister CEO should be able to read your email in the time it takes to brush his teeth or make a copy while totally checking out his secretary Rebecca at the next desk over.

TIP #2: Stay away from sweet introductions

Your boss doesn’t care that you’re concerned about his puppy who had knee surgery last week because he fell off the couch while trying to steal his dad’s waffle. He isn’t going to write you back with the vet’s notes, diagnosis and treatment plan.

It’s best to say your hellos then dive right into the point of your email. While staying clear of long introductions, you might as well throw away your conclusion as well.

Your boss knows she’s going to see you at work tomorrow, even if she doesn’t really care either way. You don’t need to waste your time and energy writing about how excited you are to see her tomorrow and how many great things you’re going to accomplish together. Save that for — yes — tomorrow.

Furthermore, if people swear by hating small talk and discussing the weather, they hate email fluff even more. Sentences don’t need a “I was just wondering…” or “Considering the last time we spoke…” Take yourself out of your email and cut to the chase.

TIP #3: Avoid being too casual or too formal

You’re probably never going to write an email to the queen or homeless person living under a bridge.

You want you use the simplest words and decrease the amount of adjectives and super long words in your emails. Emails are the last place to show off your fancy vocabulary. Spit it out, and go on with your day.

All these tips really go hand-in-hand because they all have to do with being simple, clear and straightforward. You’re on your way to a promotion if you keep these few things in mind.

For more information about writing professional emails, please visit and

Grammar mistakes are so “last year”

In today’s word savvy, tech savvy, and just plain savvy world, there is no room for the written word to cause readers to cringe from spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors in anything that is read. 

Grammarly can help even the most elementary writer with even the most heinous of errors, write error free. Grammarly is a tool that is as easy as paint-by-numbers. 

Transform elementary writing into eloquent writing through the use of this user-friendly tool that works as your own personal editor, fact checker, spell checker and overall idiot-proofer. 

The written word is both powerful and permanent. With the use of Grammarly, the words that are written will be clear, concise and correct. The need for self-checking and paranoia are removed, and a sense of relief and satisfaction replace them. 

Your emails, articles, blogs, novels and anything else you write for digital or print communication materials can start to read like gibberish when you’ve been working and writing all day long. That’s why, this week, Grammarly introduced a mechanism that can detect the tone in your work.

If you think you’re coming across as an omniscient wizard in your email, you may be wrong. Grammarly can tell you how your words sound to readers. The popular browser extension literally thinks of it all. It has your back!

From grammar to spelling, to punctuation, word choice, phrasing and now tone, Grammarly makes you appear as the boss, college student or employee that swallowed the dictionary and latest AP-Style textbook.

There are so many complications that plague our work weeks, such as company crises, malfunctioning copy machines from the Stone Age and know-it-all interns; so, don’t let writing be another complication.

Go on with your day and, instead, worry about your super cute new co-worker or what you’re going to make for dinner. Your grandparents may say the technology world has gotten out of hand, but Grammarly can even fix their mistakes with ease.

Grammarly will become your new best friend; so back off, Patricia. Leave some room for the latest AI-technology that blesses your relationship with writing and helps you land your dream job.

What is a performer anyway?

In 2017, Rolling Stone published its own “25 Under 25” list shining the spotlight on “young musicians, actors, [and] activists changing the world.”

Rolling Stone successfully equated how musicians, actors and activists make waves in cultural conversations. If musicians and actors are performers, wouldn’t an activist be a performer as well? So, how should we really be defining what a “performer” is and isn’t?

Typical performers tell stories for onlookers to question, criticize and admire. Arguably, activists do the same thing. If making a story resonate with audience members makes for a performer, then Martin Luther King Jr. is the most influential performer of all time.

If you say the names “Michael Jackson” and “Elvis Presley,” every American knows who’s being discussed. MJ had a story to tell with every song and dance move. Elvis had hips that did all the talking for him.

Martin Luther King was the only one who could’ve brought the nonviolent civil rights movement’s story to its nobility. King had a performer-mentality bubbling inside him, giving him the power to share a story no other could. He’s the most influential performer because he told the story so many African Americans wanted to share but couldn’t.

Right away you know what the words “I have a dream” symbolize. Those four words proclaim the story of ending 400 years of slavery, discrimination, racism and prejudice in America.

With pure emotion, bravery, insistence and kindness, King convinced America of the reality of hatred. He spoke of slaves beaten, bruised and worked to death every day just because of the color of their skin. Regular people beaten, bruised and insulted every day at school, work and on the streets just because of the color of their skin.

King had a dream of waking up America from a heinous nightmare. He couldn’t have accomplished all he did and inspire so many people without his triumphant storytelling — his performances.

He was successful because his message roared through the crowds and into everyone’s heart.

Rolling Stone was right; performers can and do change the world. Martin Luther King Jr. is just the most influential example.

A nation desensitized

Every day students must find their way to overcome obstacles — talking to their crush, mean girls, locker room gossip, calculus homework, football tryouts, and — now — school shootings.

More so than any other country in the world, America faces the problem of gun violence. When kids should be worried about what they’re going to text their crush that evening or that upcoming Spanish test, instead we’re worried about what we will do if and when that alarm goes off in the hallways indicating there’s an active shooter on campus.

This is a problem no one expected would haunt us each and every day. We all thought Columbine would be the last time we’d see so many deaths and injuries plague our communities. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We have run out of fingers to count how many times we’ve read a headline announcing yet another tragedy that could’ve been prevented or sat in silence with our neighbor, realizing our community would never be the same.

Columbine wasn’t the last time. Neither was Sandy Hook. Neither was Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Our peers courageously took it upon themselves to speak up and act when our government couldn’t be bothered with anything more than extending their thoughts and prayers to those who lost their lives or loved ones. Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, Sofie Whitney and Delaney Tarr had to be the ones to yell to their nation, “Never Again.”

When lawmakers, NRA members, manufacturers, distributors, large corporations and American citizens who claim to be overwhelmed by their support of the 2nd amendment start to turn a blind eye, we — young students — remind them of our friends who will never attend their prom, never graduate, never get married or have their own kids, never fulfill their dreams and who were viciously murdered by assault weapons. Murdered by people who so easily got their hands on weapons of mass destruction.

Our nation is now filled with mass destruction, and there is no turning back.

It is the young people of our nation that hold the power to prevent future school shootings. Why? Each morning, we are scared walking into our classrooms with windows that don’t open, doors that don’t lock, with four walls that fail to include even a closet for our safety. Where would we go? What would we do? What if we never found out until it’s our best friend since elementary school or our favorite teacher falling to the ground with a bullet in their chest?

We, the students of America, have all been affected by gun violence. We can all rattle off names of schools that have experienced such devastation. We can all remember what we were doing when our lives turned upside down and we no longer felt safe at school.

The nation may have become desensitized to school shootings; but, we will never forget, and we will continue to chant, “Never Again.”

For more information, please visit

Avery Cooper

Pigtails and Peruna

My relationship with Southern Methodist University did not begin my first day of classes as a freshman student. It began when I was a toddler, prancing around the boulevard in an SMU cheerleading uniform, hair in pigtails and hands holding pom-poms the size of my head. I’ve gone to every home football game for as long as I can remember.

My grandfather, Mark Ussery, graduated from SMU in 1964. For years, his old friends from the football and baseball teams have had a tent set up on the boulevard, hosting my grandparents and their friends, their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. We’d eat hot dogs and brownies and drink white wine. Their spot on the boulevard is right by the Meadows Museum; it always has been, and I think it always will be. As years go by, some of my grandpa’s friends have slowly started backing out of the boulevarding extravaganza; but my grandpa remains dedicated to the tradition of wearing red and blue from head to toe, uniting generations of SMU Mustangs at each game.

Next semester, however, the student population is moving off the boulevard. To increase student attendance at the football games, Greek life and student organizations are moving from Dallas Hall lawn to the Mustang Mall, the pathway from Moody Colosseum to Ford Stadium. Students have been quite outspoken since being told about the move in a letter only a couple weeks ago. Students and alumni will no longer share Bishop Blvd. on game day. SMU’s version of tailgating, what is known as “boulevarding” by all of Dallas, might become just that — tailgating. With this change, tradition dies.

Even with next semester’s move, I can promise that my grandfather and his friends will still make an appearance at every game. I have wondered, though, will my grandpa’s boulevard experience change once Greek life moves away? One of my favorite memories of being a toddler on SMU campus was seeing all the older and wiser students strutting around promoting their Greek organizations. I remember wanting to be just like them.

The boulevard experience has been around since SMU President R. Gerald Turner came to town. In 2000, Ford Stadium hosted the first Mustang football game against the University of Kansas. The first tailgate featured the Mustang band and spirit teams, celebrating the stadium’s grand opening. Turner brought the idea for the boulevard from the University of Mississippi, where he served as chancellor until 1995. Ole Miss fans tailgate before football games on “The Grove,” an open area in the middle of campus, resembling SMU’s Boulevard. Turner’s goal for the Boulevard experience was achieved with the construction of Ford Stadium and his desire to unite the community of SMU students and alumni.

This experience has become a tradition — something incoming freshmen at SMU can’t wait to join in on. That’s why my fellow students are not thrilled with the boulevard move. I know my grandpa, a very active alumnus, is concerned about what will happen to his party, too.

“Being on the boulevard has become tradition. Once tradition has been established, why change it? When I found out that they were changing the location for getting together before the game, I was taken back and disappointed,” Ussery said. “For us, it’s not just boulevarding — it’s getting together with friends of old and reminiscing about great times of the past and watching SMU’s future in front of us.”

“My concern is,” said Ussery, “will the excitement of game day be diminished?”

Analysis of the history and philosophy of free speech: Do whatever the hell you want

My mother has always told me that “you can’t please everyone.” It’s a part of human nature to develop opinions about people and ideas, even moments after one’s introduction to them. Humans are biologically manufactured to be survivors. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t know when a situation could be dangerous and result in our own harm. The fight or flight response is still ingrained in us all today — informing us how to judge a person or situation.

Because of our fight or flight responses and survivor-mold, people are going to judge you from the first moment they see you. It’s not necessarily a bad trait to have, considering it helps us stay alive — which is always good. However, humans are also emotional beings. Humans are distinct from any other animal, allowing us to form relationships that are far more than complex.

The Age of Enlightenment produced the philosophical movement of Romanticism, in which Immanuel Kant carried to nobility. Romanticism has a way of connecting the human features of survival and emotional expression. The movement essentially emphasized a heightened self-awareness to therefore improve society and the human condition.

Through studying the history and philosophy of free speech, I was able to interpret the bond between being a survivor and an emotional being. Romanticism does not lack a support for reality, but rather argues the perception of reality is contingent on the linking of intuition with factual knowledge. I recognized power in expressing freedom and creativity of the human spirit. I found logic in the web I discovered to be human interaction and our continuous evolution.

Being a social being is an experience, according to Romanticism. Some things cannot be studied — such as nature — and require the complexities of the human brain to decipher meaning, feeling and significance. It is philosophically rather difficult to define morality; but humans know that it exists because we feel it. In Kant’s opinion, humans do not directly see “things-in-themselves;” we only understand the world through our human point of view.

Why is Romanticism so important to me following my studies? Since adolescence, I have been an outsider. Don’t go start feeling bad for me, though, because I am so much better off understanding the insubstantial qualities of people’s judgments and perceptions.

I have been told that I am exactly the way I was when I was two-years-old. I didn’t want to play silly games with other kids my age; instead, I wanted to go explore and learn things on my own. Now, eighteen years have passed, and I remain the same viciously independent force to be reckoned with. I have never done something or believed something just because someone told me to. I have had to figure things out on my own, making a multitude of mistakes along the way, to be able to tell you today that I am overwhelmingly satisfied with who I am and my ability to never change for reasons I find insufficient.

In elementary and middle school, all these girls tried with all their might to bully me. Literally. Imagine the Big Bad Wolf trying to bully me down to nothingness rather than huffing and puffing the three little pigs’ houses down. Spoiler alert: I never budged.

When others may choose “flight,” I choose to not necessarily fight, but to not change an absolute thing. Perhaps that’s the same thing as fighting — that I am still unsure about. Alas, all my bullies went away. That is, they went away until I became a young adult in college.

In college, I have been commended by my professors and others for my sense of pride and confidence I have within my own existence. I have, too, been told I am intimidating because my beliefs don’t waver. I have been belittled and questioned for my unwillingness to “play the game.” It isn’t that I wish to defy social norms or go against authority. It also isn’t that I lack any form of self-consciousness. It is merely because I have been shown time and time again throughout my experiences that I am the way I am. I cannot change my image, increase my speed of learning new information, or suddenly become a mathematician. I can, however, take small steps every day to further my understanding of the world around me and the way people interact within it. I wouldn’t mind being remembered for my utter stubbornness as long as it means I’m not remembered for trying so hard to be like someone else. Every person in power started as a nobody whom everyone loved to hate, criticize and question.

The history and philosophy of free speech has strengthened my view that one must hold on to their opinions with all their might, no matter how hard people try to change them. Elijah P. Lovejoy was an abolitionist and journalist who died for what he believed in. If you’re not willing to die for what to believe in, you become just another person in a herd of cattle. Benjamin Franklin said everything will offend someone. If no one is perfect and all-pleasing, why would I ever consider transforming into a fraud who lets her views change to be accepted by society? The most famous philosophers demanded for freedom of speech and expression. I am simply practicing those rights.

I’ve always said: if I am not myself, then I am no one. The greatest of philosophers I have studied were excommunicated, killed, beaten, harassed and critiqued for their views. The thing is, though, we’re still studying them today because they never let anyone sway their views.

If everything in this world is up for interpretation, then I will interpret my survival skills and emotional nature every single day — strengthening my knowledge of not only myself but the rest of the world. I am no longer an outsider. I am a steadfast and hungry vacuum for understanding. Even if I were still an outsider, I’d be an outsider that knows she’s an outsider. I never want someone to tell me to play along and follow the most travelled road. I want to be told to run to experiences and have even the slightest chance of discovering something new.

You don’t like my clothes? You don’t like my hair, my makeup, the way I support the LGBTQ+ community, pro-choice, or one’s decision to not follow a singular religious theory? That’s just alright. If I die tomorrow, I know it’ll be me that’s dying and not a cookie-cutter version of billions of people that inhabit this planet. So, at this point, I thank the history and philosophy of free speech for encouraging me to trust my intuition and seek out knowledge through my own experiences instead of accepting someone’s word; and that I will take to the grave.

Come at me now, Big Bad Wolf.