An innovative program—the Education and Development Grant for Employability (EDGE)—helps make students attractive to university employers.

“I was getting a lot of calls from parents and new students asking about campus jobs,” says Erik Friedman, director of the Office of Student Employment (above). “But when you crunch the numbers, the likelihood of a first-year student getting a job with the university is really quite low—maybe five to eight percent of the students working on campus are freshmen. So, we created a financial aid program that would give students the know-how and connections to find a good job their second year.”

Since 2011, when the program was started, 467 students have participated in EDGE. 

EDGE students spend five to10 hours each week in a university office where they gain relevant job skills (14 offices currently participate in EDGE; see the list below). All are required to attend workshops in career development, resume writing, job hunting and money management. The students must be eligible for financial aid, and each receives a tuition grant of $1,000 per quarter to help meet their financial needs.

Sarah Carbone, assistant director of Student Employment, says EDGE students appreciate what they gain in the program: “They learn about DePaul resources, while becoming job-ready for the following year. They get to know their peers, while also meeting staff members they can turn to if they need help with anything. They grow in confidence in themselves and in commitment to the university.”

“In the bigger picture, EDGE contributes to the university’s overall retention goals,” adds Friedman. “The students get connected to DePaul, and that’s great.”

A Win-Win Program

At an EDGE fair, students hear pitches from the offices and then indicate the top three teams they’d like to join. The offices use the students for initiatives that couldn’t get done without extra resources.  “EDGE students are not paid to do a job,” says Friedman, making the distinction between them and student employees.  Each EDGE team has to be given meaningful projects and/or activities that include learning outcomes for the students.

“The offices have to be creative in finding enrichment activities they couldn’t do without these students—they have to make a real commitment to the program,” says Paula Luff, associate vice president for Enrollment Services
 
“We use our EDGE students strategically, as part of our recruiting process,” says Anne Kremer, associate director of Undergraduate Admission.  “For example, they help us with calling campaigns and posting on our social media outlets. At the same time, we’re grooming students to work for us next year—it’s a win-win program.”

Seven of eight EDGE students on the 2013 Undergraduate Admission team were employed by the office in 2014. “That’s just awesome!” says Erin Updegraff, associate director.  “We had such a great experience with the inaugural program that we asked for two EDGE teams this year.”

For the Office of Multicultural Student Success, EDGE is all about increasing the students’ social equity, says Andrea Arzuaga, assistant director.  “Their ‘task’ is to figure out a few things: who they are, where they come from, what skills they have and need, and how they can contribute to the greater community. We teach them to articulate all that. At the end of the year, they can read a job description, describe how their skill set fits the job, and state their work goals to an employer. At the same time, we encourage their thinking about issues of identity and social justice.”

Students “Get It”

Damian Wille (‘17), currently the scholarship office intern in Undergraduate Admission, was an EDGE student last year (pictured in the EDGE fair photo, above). “I picked the admission team because I wanted to talk to prospective students—that was really exciting for me. It’s a special feeling when you see students you had talked to the year before on campus in the fall, when you realize that you contributed to their decisions to come to DePaul. That’s a big deal.”

Matthew Morley (’15) joined the Housing Services Green Team in the program’s inaugural year. “I got a lot of things out of EDGE,” he recalls. “As the team co-leader, I had to manage projects, which meant I learned how to communicate in ways appropriate for work. By sophomore year, I had set a goal for myself: To take advantage of as many opportunities at DePaul as I could. I really opened my eyes wide. EDGE started that for me.”

Anne Kremer sums up the program’s purpose: “EDGE reflects, in such a positive way, what the university stands for: Giving students what they need to succeed. We set expectations, and the students meet them and more. They really grow in the program, and they make us proud.”

In the current academic year, these offices are sponsoring EDGE students:
•    Campus Recreation
•    Career Center
•    Center for Access and Attainment 
•    Center for Intercultural Programs
•    Housing Services
•    International Programs Office
•    Office of Multicultural Student Success
•    Office of Student Involvement
•    Media, Production and Training
•    Residential Education Marketing
•    Undergraduate Admission
•    University Center for Writing-based Learning
•    Office of Religious Diversity 
•    Vincentian Community Service Office