University of New Hampshire-Manchester
‘Students appreciate being out in the community, and the partners think it is a tremendous opportunity because their budgets are restricted. Before we had a position to market these opportunities, students weren’t even interested. We were lucky to place one or two students in the community. Now, the connections made with partners and with students are strong.’
–Jodi Abad, Associate Director of Financial Aid
Leveraging Resources to Build a Program
The University of New Hampshire’s main campus is located in Durham, while the campus in Manchester primarily serves commuter students. UNH-Manchester received a grant from Campus Compact for New Hampshire to create a community service Federal Work-Study program. Jodi Abad, Associate Director of Financial Aid at UNH-Manchester, explains that the grant provided the primary motivation to create a position to promote work-study positions for the first time at the Manchester campus. According to Abad, ‘Our campus is in an urban setting, but we weren’t taking advantage of what students can do in the city because we didn’t have a person to coordinate it. Now, we are improving our relationship with nonprofit organizations.’
Diane Allen was hired in 2005 to coordinate both on-campus and off-campus Federal Work-Study (FWS) for UNH-Manchester. Allen had experience working in a middle school and a high school, and enjoys working with students of all ages. Of the 108 UNH students who qualified for a FWS job in 2005, 15 actually took one. Of these, five were community service positions and ten were on campus. Allen explains, ‘Many of our students are fulltime workers with families, so work-study jobs are competing with other jobs around the corner that offer more hours.’ She believes the community service FWS positions are important, but staff time is needed to make such a program grow.
Among Allen’s responsibilities are developing community positions, advertising the FWS positions, offering an orientation for interested students, and matching students to jobs. She feels that advertisement as a lot to do with the success of the program. She posts the position descriptions on a website and on a bulletin board, she writes articles and creates posters about the positions, and asks current FWS students talk about the experience with other students.
‘Community service work-study is a challenge and it’s fun,’ notes Allen. ‘Students need the money, and they’re getting good experience.’ To get students to the orientation meeting where they can hear more about the available jobs, she sends letters and email to FWS eligible students. She explains that ‘students were very excited to attend the orientation last year, and most who attended applied for positions. I try to get a lot of the nonprofit leaders to be present at the orientation, too.’
Community partners include schools and other nonprofit organizations. Allen sent a flyer to additional organizations explaining the benefits of hosting a FWS student from UNH. Allen tries to closely match students’ experience and interests to available positions. Students complete a Job Interest form (see Appendices) so Allen knows of their academic and personal interests and experience. She alerts students when new positions become available, and sends one or more students to interview with the community partner. For example, a student studying American Sign Language was placed at New Hampshire Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. ‘This position will help in her future work with people with disabilities. I’m very excited for her,’ Allen says.
Jodi Abad also believes the new program has been positive for students and nonprofit partners. ‘Students appreciate being out in the community, and the partners think it is a tremendous opportunity because their budgets are restricted,’ she says. ‘Before we had a position to market these opportunities, students weren’t even interested. We were lucky to place one or two students in the community. Now, the connections made with partners and with students are strong.’
Abad also sees many benefits for the university. The community-based FWS program helps UNH fulfill its mission as an urban campus, which is to provide access to public education for people who live and work in the greater Merrimack Valley region of the state of New Hampshire. UNH also has a service-learning program, but FWS is a way for the Financial Aid office to also get involved. The institution is trying to strengthen its community partnerships in a variety of ways.
One challenge is getting the university to dedicate enough resources to build the community service FWS program. Abad explains, ‘We just didn’t have the people to start building the relationships or to get students engaged and excited. The grant from Campus Compact wasn’t enough for a staff position, but it helped leverage the resources for the position. I went to senior administrators and said, ’˜we’ve gotten this far, but we need to commit more because now we have this grant.’ Now there’s evidence that it’s a good thing. We haven’t had any students say it wasn’t beneficial. We try to show the value of the staff position to many different people who then won’t allow it to be cut. The coordinator position is now permanent and will be sustained after the grant ends.’
Abad recommends building programs like these slowly. ‘In the past, we tried to form too many partnerships and didn’t have the staff resources to keep it together. If we couldn’t meet the partners’ needs or had too many students involved, then people became discouraged and disinterested,’ she notes. ‘Now we pay attention to how many students are looking for positions and how many employers are involved. Our goal is to add just two or three partners each year. The staff coordinator position has been key in keeping everything balanced.’
Helping Families in Transition
‘This gives the students an opportunity to try something new, something they might not have thought of doing.’
–Sari Friedman-Rosner, Families in Transition (UNH community partner)
The mission of Families In Transition is ‘to provide safe, affordable housing and comprehensive social services to individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, enabling them to gain self-sufficiency and respect.’ The organization is located in Manchester, near the campus of UNH.
Sari Friedman-Rosner has been with Families In Transition for seven years. As the Assistant Director of Clinic Services, she has a case load of about ten people whom she sees on a weekly basis, she supervises a VISTA volunteer who oversees youth programming, and she supervises the internship program, including partnerships with the local colleges and universities. Friedman-Rosner is also finishing her doctorate focused on women with trauma and substance abuse issues.
As a private nonprofit, Families In Transition is often looking for ways to form partnerships. Supervising UNH work-study students is one way to do that. ‘We have a need, and the students have a need to earn income,’ Friedman-Rosner says.
Friedman-Rosner has supervised both interns and FWS students over the years and sees the two as fairly similar. ‘Some students can be amazing and take it all very seriously and go the extra mile, while some are immature or irresponsible,’ she notes. She explains that she has academic interns and FWS students helping in different ways. The FWS students work with children in the literacy and arts programs that are offered while parents attend therapeutic group sessions. The FWS positions are narrowly focused and that seems to work well. The FWS students require less supervision than the interns.
FWS students are exposed to career options while working at Families In Transition and the experience can help clarify if they are making a good career choice. A student that Friedman-Rosner supervised this year wants to go into education and the student’s experience working with youth helped validate that choice. ‘She was exposed to different ages and that helped clarify which age group she wants to work with. This also gives the students an opportunity to try something new, something they might not have thought of doing.’
Challenges related to the partnership include the paperwork to be completed and occasional problems with students. Friedman-Rosner clarifies, ‘When I had a problem with a UNH student this past year, I called Diane Allen, the Work-Study Coordinator, and she was wonderful. She tried hard to find a replacement student right away. We are located close to campus and it has been easy to coordinate the students’ involvement.’