Workshop series offers professional development for student employees

Leslie Zhang

A University program designed to help the 10,000 students employed on campus develop professional and life skills hosted its first of 16 interactive workshops to educate and offer professional growth opportunities.

The semester-long series is hosted by the Student Employee Excellence Development Program, referred to as SEED, a program launched in fall 2012 by the University’s Human Resource Services department. 

Cecilia Lopez, Hogg Memorial Auditorium manager and member of SEED’s employee committee, presented a lecture on customer service with an emphasis on the FISH! Philosophy, a client-centered work model established in the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

FISH! focuses on employees engaging customers and enjoying work in a high-energy environment, using four tenets: “be there,” “play,” “make their day” and “choose your attitude.” 

“They exuded this positive attitude towards something that I wouldn’t think I would do if I worked at a fish market,” said Adrienne Teter, a radio-television-film junior who works at Hogg Auditorium. “They make remedial tasks seem really fun and exciting.”

Though customer service desks often deal with many of the same questions, Lopez said employees must treat each customer as if he or she were the first to ask.

“We get a lot of calls — exact same calls — hundreds of people call in a day,” said Zach Lozano, a computer science junior who works at the Information Technology Services help desk. “It’s a matter of treating each customer as if they were your first call.”

After speaking on the FISH! Philosophy, Lopez divided workshop attendees into two groups that were given two separate scenarios unrelated to the philosophy to solve.

In one scenario, a customer approached an employee with a question about safety that the employee was unable to answer. The group concluded that employees should tell the customer if they don’t have an answer and should clarify with a supervisor later.

“Give them the disclaimer upfront: ‘I’m not 100 percent sure,’” said Damien Tubbs, an African and African-American studies junior. “If we can’t give them any information at all, we have to tell them they have to come back.”

Modeled after similar programs at other universities, SEED strives to educate and offer professional growth opportunities to on-campus student employees. Students may earn a SEED program certification by attending workshops and writing a final two-page paper about what they learned over the course of the program.

“We started it because we value our student employees and recognize the huge contribution they make to the University,” student employment coordinator Amy Lebowitz Greenspan said. “We also feel that what our student employees learn on the job is an important and valuable part of what they learn at the University.”