On vs. off-campus jobs for NMU students

Weighing options, exploring the benefits of working on and off college grounds.
Joleigh Martinez/NW
Joleigh Martinez/NW

Working in downtown Marquette and the surrounding area can be a perfect scenario for Northern Michigan University students. Supporting local businesses, spending time off-campus gaining opportunities and making money in between classes can be ideal for some.

For others, securing an on-campus job can be more ideal — working with fellow students and running essential campus businesses is what they prefer. Taking the time to make this decision while searching for a job can be intimidating, and there are benefits and drawbacks to each.

The Student Employment Policy at NMU states that students with on-campus jobs can work no more than 24 hours per week. They also must be making significant progress towards their degree, and their hours worked are consistently monitored by supervisors. Such a policy can be a significant roadblock for working students and a driving factor for their choice to work off-campus. Those who work in downtown Marquette, for example, are exempt from the Student Employment Policy.

“I decided to work off campus because I wanted to work more than 24 hours in a week, and honestly none of the on-campus jobs that were hiring at that time seemed super exciting to me,” said Norah Williams, a senior at NMU. “I also had several friends that had worked at Donckers so that drew me there as well.”

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Williams gained the position of front house manager at Donkers after working there for over two years. By taking a big leadership role, she has gained the opportunity to build skills and make quick decisions.

Students with on-campus jobs that are directly affected by the Student Employment policy have mixed opinions about their limited weekly hours. Cat Trax worker freshman Grace Elbers does not feel limited by this policy but recognizes that others may seek off-campus jobs for this reason.

“This requirement doesn’t affect me much, since I usually work 12 hours a week,” Elbers said. “If I was wanting to do more with my job and my class schedule allowed me, it would affect me by not letting me work the hours I want to get, and the pay I want from working.”

Another leading factor that can often affect students’ decision to work on or off-campus is the community they find within their jobs. Students working at NMU find it appealing that they can socialize with classmates, while off-campus workers appreciate the community they find in local businesses.

I get to serve and talk to members of the Marquette community. Donckers has been a part of Marquette for 126 years, and families have been coming [here] for years,” Williams said. “Seeing friendly, familiar faces within the community at work makes the job more fun and personable.”

On the other hand, on-campus workers argue that their support and employment is incredibly important to allow many parts of NMU to remain functioning smoothly. This correlates with the recent shutdown of Melted, a dining location that served grilled cheeses that closed due to lack of employment.

This also impacts food options that are made available at Northern Lights Dining, as the scarcity of student workers makes it difficult for the hall to offer a large variety of meals each day. Elbers argues that Cat Trax is another example of a business that is crucial for students living on campus.

“My coworkers and I joke that we’re the ‘backbone of the campus’ since we work later hours than most on-campus jobs, and I think it impacts people more than we know,” Elbers said. “People who come in are able to get what they want from a place that’s on average a four-minute walk from their dorm room, in comparison to going to a gas station that is further away.”

Others argue that on-campus jobs allow students to continue to focus on academics, which is typically not made a priority off campus. Senior student library worker Grace Taranko believes that her choice to work at NMU was ideal pertaining to her classes and shows great support on the university’s end.

“An on-campus job has allowed me to be extremely flexible with my work schedule as well as providing the convenience of being at my place of work right before or after classes,” Taranko said. “[It] helps to show that NMU likes to increase student involvement by employing their students as well as giving them an opportunity to do the work-based study program.”

Based on student responses, it is evident that the options to work both on and off-campus can greatly vary depending on the person. Someone who hopes to find a job pertaining to their major with a flexible schedule will most likely find a job on campus most ideal. On the other hand, students who want to explore the community of Marquette and support local businesses may decide to commute off campus, especially if they hope to work more than 24 hours a week.

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