Off-Campus work study program provides students with rewarding opportunities

Are you a student employee tired of slopping eggs onto trays at 8 a.m. in Café Mac? Have no fear: Off-Campus Student Employment (OCSE) provides alternative opportunities for students to earn their work-study while working at nonprofits and elementary schools.

Leah Beckmann ’16 started working at Planned Parenthood this September as a Patient Support Assistant. “I liked my job last year, but I wanted to do something that I was more passionate about,” she said. “I like getting off campus and interacting with people who aren’t involved with Mac in any way.”

Beckmann’s duties include providing comfort and a small amount of medical assistance during abortions. “Being able to support patients during their abortions is extremely rewarding. You never know what circumstances people are coming from or where their life is going afterward, but I hope to make that one moment just a little easier for them,” she said.

By law, every college offering federal work study must have an off-campus option. However, Macalester’s 14-year-old program is nationally recognized because of its commitment to building a community both within the group of off-campus employees and within nearby neighborhoods in the Twin Cities.

“In addition to working with a nonprofit, students begin the year with a program retreat and are required to meet once a month to reflect on their work,” said Assistant Director of the Civic Engagement Center (CEC) Ruth Janisch Lake. “At many colleges, off-campus study is organized independently by the student, but we try to [encourage focus] beyond that at Macalester by fostering thought about what we’re doing and strengthening bonds between participants.”

Every year, OCSE asks around 100 nonprofits to apply to the program. Of the 40-50 sites that do, about 30 are approved. Some of the most popular nonprofits with students this year included the Minnesota Internship Center (a public charter high school), Family Tree Clinic (which provides sexual health care and education) and the Center for Victims of Torture.

Although applications are required every year for returning students and spots are never guaranteed, most students who begin OCSE their sophomore year continue working at their chosen site until graduation.

“OCSE is a great way to sustain commitment. It’s especially good for people who want to volunteer, but can’t fit it into their work-study schedule. And it’s not just beneficial for the students. The organizations can receive up to three students—that’s 30 hours of volunteer service a week,” said Lake.

Participation in OCSE also requires students to provide their own transportation. However, it is partly compensated by OCSE’s $8.50 per hour salary.

Because it’s popular and requires extra responsibility, securing a job with OCSE is competitive. Last year the program received 70 applicants, including returning juniors and seniors. About 40 were accepted into the program.

Lake advises students interested in beginning OCSE next fall to look for the application on JobEx at the start of spring semester. Students should also look for notifications in the Daily Piper starting in February.