When I saw my work study assignment for the school year, I was disappointed. As a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, not having indicated any interest in business, nor even self-proclaimed as slightly “creative,” I could not see how working in a center for “Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship” would benefit me. So on my first day in the Skandalaris Center, I anticipated just doing mundane office work, making copies and sorting paper clips. However, right away, my supervisor demonstrated an investment in and awareness for my professional development. She wanted to know my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I was interested in doing. I was excited to find myself working with people who wanted to help me grow as an individual. Though from time to time I would make copies, I primarily worked on event planning for the Center, standardizing system procedures, and interacting with students and faculty.
Although my work study was an extracurricular activity, I learned a great deal while working. Kristie, my supervisor, was always willing to explain how to use programs I was unfamiliar with and let me in on her current projects. After my first year of working with Excel, figuring out the details of event organization within higher education, and sitting in on National Council meetings, I had acquired a variety of highly transferable skills. In later interviews, I was able to draw upon the experiences I had in the Skandalaris Center to demonstrate my ability to learn quickly, adapt, and communicate with staff members. I had also become more aware of the intricacies of higher education.
In addition to the support that I had received from my supervisor, I felt supported by other staff members as well. I asked them how they used MailChimp for sending emails and worked on their projects. They cultivated an environment where, though I was a student worker, I was never afraid to ask questions to better understand a task or learn about their careers. When I was pressed for time to make a summer internship decision, I turned to Kristie to discuss my options and what considerations I should make. This atmosphere has strengthens WashU’s culture of knowing individuals on a name and story basis.
As an integrated member of the Center, I became more aware of the cool and different programs that they ran, such competitions for students and staff to earn seed funding and a summer internship matching program for WashU students. It was inspiring to see the Center concretely furthering the endeavors of students in their entrepreneurial ventures. I also was able to inform my friends of the beautiful new space that the Center had, open all students from any school on campus. Though I started quite indifferent to the Skandalaris Center and job, at the end of my freshman year, I knew that I had discovered a gem on campus.