Every Yale student has access to myriad on-campus jobs that require little or no previous experience, offer minimal and flexible working hours and pay respectable wages. From scanning books at the library, to organizing the bulletin boards on Old Campus or cleaning dishes in the cafeteria, Yale Student Employment has something for everyone — almost.
But a select few students have ventured into New Haven in search of jobs that suit their particular interests, expose them to a wider variety of people, or introduce them to different aspects of the city beyond Yale. While these jobs are often more time-consuming and in less convenient locations than on-campus jobs, students often find them fulfilling and worth the extra effort.
Sophie Raseman ’04 works in Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s office doing New Haven community outreach projects for about 30 hours a week during the school year. She said that because she cares deeply about New Haven and the assignments she is working on, she is happy to devote so much time to her job.
“While working so much has made it a challenge to do everything I would like to academically, that challenge has been more than made up for by the fact that the work I am doing has complemented and dramatically enriched my academic life,” Raseman said.
Working off-campus makes time management more difficult, Whitney Sparks ’07 agreed. But she said she would not want to trade her jobs at the Connecticut Children’s Museum and Creating Kids Childcare for one in a Yale library.
“These jobs are just more interesting to me than anything I saw on campus, like stacking books,” Sparks said. “And very often, certain things, important things like either sleep or homework, just don’t get done.”
Because all on-campus student employees are Yale students with hours of reading and studying to do each night, most of their employers allow them the luxury of doing homework on the job, a benefit missed by students employed outside the academic world.
High wages and down-time on the job, as well as the opportunity to interact with others while working, drew Mina Kimes ’07 to work at the Blue Dog cafe in the Graduate School’s MacDougal Student Center, where she serves coffee and food for six hours a week.
“Even though the job is busy, I always have some time to do homework, a big plus that off-campus jobs don’t offer,” Kimes said.
Working on campus let Taylor Matthews ’07, who works at the college seminar office in Silliman College six hours a week, balance his job with varsity cross-country and track. Matthews said he might not be able to run if he worked off-campus.
“On-campus employers are very lenient about how much you work each week and even how much you work on the job,” Matthews said. “I spend about half of my time there doing homework.”
But some students find off-campus jobs give them the break they need from homework and studying. They appreciate the change of scenery and the different type of learning they do on the job.
Off-campus jobs can also offer hours that make it easy to work around school. Gregory Yolen ’05 works at Bentara Restaurant on the weekends, where he said his minimal hours make the balance of school and work virtually problem-free. Hired as a busboy, Yolen was trained and promoted to wait tables after three months.
“Work is kind of like a break from all the books and papers, all that heady stuff,” Yolen said. “It’s a chance to do something fast-paced and even kind of fun, and get paid at the same time,” he said.
Grace Silvia ’05, who works at Merwin’s Art Shop, said she does not see a difference between on-campus and off-campus jobs in terms of balancing her schedule. Silvia works at Merwin’s about ten hours a week, but her hours have changed every semester based on her schedule. She considered applying for a position on campus but decided against it.
“I feel very lucky to have this job because it is so flexible and at the same time enjoyable,” Silvia said. “I like the fact that I’ve learned an actual skill that’s useful in the real world, and I feel like I understand New Haven in a way that Yale alone could never have shown me.”
Off-campus employers share mixed feelings about hiring Yale students. On the one hand, it offers a kind of automatic publicity, but on the other, students’ busy schedules are often difficult to work around.
Ashley’s ice cream store manager Mike Kochis said when he has hired Yale students in the past, they have provided “an insider connection” to the majority of his customers.
“Eight to ninety percent of our business is from Yale, so these employees help attract customers and tell me when big events are going down,” Kochis said. “But they are often hard to hire because they don’t have very flexible hours and it creates a shortage over winter and summer vacation time.”
A Koffee Too? barista who only gave his name as Jesse expressed his frustration at working with Yale students. He feels they are unreliable and always put school before work, he said.
“If it were up to me, I wouldn’t hire any college kids because someone always has to cover their shifts when they skip work for tests, and that someone usually ends up being me,” he said.
Urban Outfitters senior sales associate Heidi Kinsella said only two or three Yale students have worked at Urban Outfitters on Broadway since she has been there. Their hours have never been a problem, she explained, because over vacations the store hires students who live in New Haven and are home from college.
“We hire lots of local college students who are all on the same busy schedules,” she said. “Yale students are no exception.”
While faced with various challenges, students who work in New Haven say they have no regrets about their decisions to venture off campus.
“New Haven offers students amazing opportunities,” Raseman said. “For students interested in changing the world, I can’t think of a better place to be.”
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