By Dorothy Wynn Marie Vendiola | October 13, 2023
At the forefront of their departments, these students—ever so enthusiastic and dependable—are unmissable. You may not know their names, but you might have encountered at least one of them. Whether you see them rummaging through files or giving instructions to fellow students, these behind-the-scenes helpers all fall under one broad category.
They are the university’s student assistants.
What must have motivated them to take on their roles? This is a question only they can answer individually.
Personality and productivity merged in experience
John Claudimar Catagasan, a freshman studying BS Foreign Affairs, thinks he has a pretty loose schedule outside of his academic load. He has quite the unique routine: he does his school requirements at night and is free during the day. Wanting a respite from academic activities and to be productive while on campus, he applied for a work grant by becoming a student assistant.
“I want to invest in work, for experience,” he explained.
Assigned to the transcript section at the Registrar, he prepares Transcripts of Records (TORs) and certificates, among other tasks his supervisors instruct him to do.
Full of energy, Claudimar’s three weeks of experience have exposed him to the work he always coveted. But other than experience, his role as a student assistant also obliges him to accomodate to his clients.
“I always love to entertain people, […] especially when they enter the room,” he excitedly mused. “I always help them. Like, ‘Ma’am, can I help you?’ It’s really fun.”
Forage for connections
Every student assistant is different, and for others, their goals might be aligned with their search for connections. Stationed in the Library, Karyl Lim, a sophomore majoring in marketing management, is beyond joyful because she wouldn’t have become a scholar if it weren’t for the connections she made within the program.
“Maka-ila raka sa mga staff diri sa library, niya kung palitan ikaw pu’y magka-kinahanglan kay naa ra pud sila, ‘nya daghan pud kang ma-kaila nga student sssistant pud, kasagaran sa mga student assistant kay scholar man pud. Naa koy friend nga scholar ‘nya karon nga semester iya pud kong gitabangan nga mu-apply ug scholar[ship],” she says,
(You’ll get to know the staff here in the library, and if you need something, they’re always there. So you’ll really be acquainted with other student assistants, because they’re also scholars. I have a friend who’s a scholar, and this semester, they helped me apply with my scholarship.)
Fulfilling obligations as a scholar
For Mary Andales, a senior studying BS Office Systems Administration, working as a student assistant simply meant fulfilling her obligations as an Expanded Work Study Grant (EWSG) scholar at first.
She was assigned to the ID room, working under the Office of Student Services. When days aren’t busy, she assists with office work and answers calls—for six years total.
Eventually, student assistantship became her entire student life. She expressed her initially shy disposition and how she eventually developed better communication skills due to her role of interacting with other members of the Silliman community.
“As an EWSG scholar, it’s part of our responsibility. It’s also our way of giving back to the university. I’m not like the rest, it wasn’t my choice, pero over the years murag na part najud siya sa akong student life (but over the years, being a student assistant has already become a part of my life), being a student assistant,” she said.
Like Claudimar, Mary feels fulfillment in volunteerism.
“I feel productive pud na during my free time I can accomplish some office work, then I can be of service to the students, I can assist the office staff, kana lang,” she explained.
The woes of servitude
Karyl shares that the time she spends at the library can overshadow her personal time. Her voice growing faint, she added, “Since, sa akong free time sa akong schedule kay trabaho man ko diri, di ko mo-kuyog anang mga laag-laag, mga ing-ana. Diretso rako diris library, then mo-skwela, ‘nya mupauli, ing-ana.“
(Since, during my free time on my schedule, I work here, I don’t go out on outings and such. I go straight to the library, go to school, then go home, like that.)
Because Mary has required service hours, she can’t be active in her department nor join organizations or events. She laments that she’s in her senior year but didn’t get to have chances for bonding with her department.
Despite the lack of personal time, she—and other student assistants like her—never let their obligations as student assistants outweigh their responsibilities as students.
Service without cost
One might think that being a student assistant takes so much personal time, but their work hours are decided purely by choice.
Claudimar, the ever-enthusiastic assistant, said, “Whenever I’m free, I can work the whole day.”
“Dili raman pud sila strict kung mu-absent ba or dili, kay ila man pu’ng gi-prioritize [among] academics, kay student assistant baya mi. ‘Student’ baya jud ang una,” Karyl emphasized.
(They’re not very strict if we’re absent or not, because they really prioritize our academics, because we’re student assistants. ‘Student’ comes first.)
Silliman University’s grant for student assistants allows students to accommodate the university staff, yet still prioritizes their class schedules and GPAs. While easing the workload of the university personnel, the students are also nourished financially and experience-wise, immersing them in the perfect combination of learning and practice.
As the university’s inconspicuous puzzle pieces, they fill in the roles beyond what the staff can handle—like the smaller parts of a larger, tightly-fitted whole.