Jocelyn Hopkinson ’15 – Each summer, the Business Immersion Program (BIP) students embark on a consulting project with a local business. The idea is to give students experience in solving various problems businesses face, and businesses may take student suggestions into consideration. This year’s topic, Employment Self Help (ESH), is proving to be the most important topic to date. President Elect Gregory Hess has expressed a great deal of interest and will attend the students’ final presentation on the topic via video call.
“ESHues,”—a term Dean of Students Michael Raters ’85 used to describe the problems surrounding ESH — exist in many different layers. Should the hourly wage be the same for all jobs even though some jobs consist of more work than others? What is the role of supervisors in ESH? What effects does ESH have on students’ financial aid and how is it budgeted? Should ESH be marketed? Should it be rebranded? These are just a few of the questions BIP students are attempting to answer.
The consulting project started on the first day with ESH Coordinator Steve Barnes and BIP students discussing the problems. Later, a handful of BIP students compiled a survey for Wabash students. Other BIP members organized a faculty forum to discuss the problems from the faculty’s perspective.
Among other questions, the survey asked students to list their job category and mark the amount of time they work while on the job. Answers varied widely from 0-10 minutes to 51-60 minutes. Students were also questioned if they found their job meaningful, and results varied again. Finally, students were asked to provide thoughts on how they would improve ESH. Some wanted the pay adjusted and others felt there was nothing wrong and ESH shouldn’t be changed.
The faculty forum consisted of the same topics. Faculty also debated whether it is wise to let students work multiple jobs. Student and supervisor accountability was another issue discussed. It was pointed out students are guaranteed their ESH money if they log the hours, no matter the quality of work. The faculty was also frustrated with multiple accounts of students failing to report their hours. Other ideas were some sort of a rewards system/banquet to recognize hard-working students, and a complete rebranding of ESH. BIP students dutifully took notes on each topic.
The BIP chewed on different ideas over the weekend and began addressing them last Monday. On Thursday of last week, Dean Raters held an open discussion with the BIP. Raters and Betsy Knott, director of the program, helped the BIP organize its issues and ideas, and established five categories: standardization, education, mission and culture, interface and brand, budget and financial aid. A different BIP student was named manager for each category and the five managers will get together to discuss their respective topics—each manager holds responsibility for a group of three. The hierarchical organization is very similar to real-world-office projects. Managers in turn hold more responsibility and will put in a few more hours, but there are perks—two free breakfasts go a long way for a Wabash man.
The final ESH presentations will take place June 24, so the past week proved to be the most trying of the eight-week program. BIP students are aware of the interest in their final presentations and will work diligently to deliver helpful advice to solve “ESHues.”