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.

Dallas Love Field Airport Wins Multiple Honors

Dallas Love Field Airport flew to the top of major airport rankings, receiving two new honors this September.

Dallas Love Field is one of two area airports many SMU students use to fly home or on vacation. J.D. Power named Love Field North America’s best large airport and it was inducted into the Airports Council International World (ACI) Roll of Excellence for its multiple honors through the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards program.

Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011.
Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011. | Photo by the City of Dallas.

The airport’s central location within Dallas and about four miles from SMU makes it a popular place for the SMU community to travel.

Airport satisfaction has risen sharply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Love Field ranking highest among large airports with a score of 844 (on a 1,000-point scale), according to J.D. Power’s 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study released in September.

“In its category (airports that serve 15-25 million passengers yearly), DAL did very well in airport access, check in, facilities, food, beverage and retail, and bag claim,” said Michael Taylor, J.D. Power spokesperson. “Hopefully, considering our data, the SMU community will recognize what other passengers and airport reports have recognized; Love Field is one of the best airports in North America and a pleasant place to fly in and out of.”

J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years. The world’s leading businesses across major industries rely on J.D. Power to guide their customer-facing strategies. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Now in its 15th year, the study serves as a benchmark and measures overall traveler satisfaction within 30 days of passengers’ travel.

The other organization that honored Love Field, ACI, inducted the airport into its ASQ program, a subscription model that surveys passengers while at the airport about airport services, perceptions and priorities compared to other airports around the world.

Its role is to be a comprehensive business tool for airports, offering detailed analysis into various aspects of the passenger experience.

Airports Council International (ACI), established in 1991, is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports. | Photo from ACI.

Since the ACI World’s 2020 Customer Experience Global Summit was canceled due to the pandemic, ASQ winners will be recognized virtually for both its ASQ Award and Roll of Excellence honor during ASQ Customer Experience Week beginning Oct. 26, according to an airport press release.

“Our program evaluates every part of the passenger journey,” said David Whitely, ACI vice president for marketing and communications. “We not only celebrate airports and offer them a competitive edge in an increasingly sophisticated industry, but demonstrate to passengers how airports adapt to the times, address passengers’ concerns and offer experiences to its customers.”

Employee satisfaction is another key objective in both reports.

“Southwest [Airlines] is known for its hub at Love Field and reflects its can-do attitude, convenience and attention to every traveler onto the airport,” said Southwest customer service representative, Sean Dennis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global airport industry to a standstill with an estimated reduction in passenger traffic of 5.6 billion, according to an ACI media release.

Dallas Love Field, according to its website, is leading the evolution of the airport experience. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Despite this 76 percent nationwide reduction in passenger traffic since March 1, which financially devastated many airports, customer satisfaction has improved, as those still flying enjoy less crowded terminals and see airports taking special interest in passenger perceptions and prioritization of hygiene, according to a J.D. Power media release.

This is especially true for Dallas Love Field. The airport has demonstrated significant efforts in gathering passenger feedback to help better understand customers during the pandemic, said Chris Perry, Love Field communications and marketing manager.

"We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience," said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. "All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience."
“We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience,” said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. “All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience.” | Photo by Shutterstock.

“Our customers have shown time and time again that they appreciate our proactive responses,” Perry said. “That shows in our receiving of these honors and our ASQ overall satisfaction score of 4.48 out of 5 at the end of this year’s first quarter.”

The airport served nearly 17 million passengers in 2019, the most in its history, and already more than 5 million passengers this year, despite the pandemic, according to a Love Field total passengers report for August.

“We hope the SMU community continues making Dallas Love Field its airport of choice,” Perry said. “With our location, ease of use and seamless travel experience – one ticketing wing, one security checkpoint, one baggage claim – we have everything that busy SMU students and faculty could hope for in an airport.”