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Students explore work options off-campus


In the wake of labor disputes between Grinnell College and the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW), students who choose to work off-campus have been left out of the student labor narrative. In catching up with a few students who have chosen to work off-campus, The S&B found reasons ranging from better pay to a better sense of community with Grinnell at large as some anecdotal reasons students might venture downtown in search of work.

At Prairie Canary, student workers Erik Henderson ’19 and Rowan Kemmerly ’21 can be found serving food and drinks several nights per week. Both Henderson and Kemmerly cite their desire to get to know the Grinnell community as the major motivating factor in their decision to find work off-campus.

“One of the biggest [motivators] is just being able to see Grinnell more as a community, that includes the professors and students, but also families and couples and other people that are just residents,” Kemmerly said. “It’s cool to get a comprehensive view [of] Grinnell. Also, my professors are often in there, my English major advisor is in there all time. You get to talk to people outside of class, which is really helpful and you foster connections.”

“It’s a good chance to get to know this community,” Henderson added. “A lot of people don’t want to get into the Grinnell community, they feel like it’s isolated and people aren’t friendly to students, but people should do it.”

Henderson and Kemmerly also touched on the fact that working at Prairie Canary requires a different kind of mindset than when doing schoolwork or working a campus job.

“My on-campus job[s] — I feel like in those I focus more on my professional side and academic side by making sure that I have the skills to be able to talk to people and be able to continue a career in the academic field,” Henderson said. “I feel like my off campus job gives me the ability to have a social side. Whenever I’m there I can see people, chat with people, rather than being academic and professional.”

Kemmerly added that the work is consuming in a way that academic work is not. “I also like the job itself, as far as how consuming it is, because when I’m there I don’t think of anything else. I’m not at the school and you have to think about what you’re doing at the moment, which is refreshing.”

Anna Ahrens ’21, who works at McNally’s, had practical reasons for beginning her student work off-campus. “I was going to be here for a summer and I had an unpaid internship and I had to make some money. I think there are not a ton of campus jobs to get over the summer. Plus, I had also worked at a grocery store in Madison, so I knew the business.”

All three students cited the fact that they enjoy the higher wages they are getting off-campus.

“Prairie Canary was a place that I knew I would always be able to make money,” said Henderson.

“I knew that tips were a better way to make more money in a shorter amount of time,” Kemmerly said. “I probably make two to three times as much … through tips than I could working an on-campus job.”

“Once I had that job, it paid more than a campus job and I enjoyed working there,” said Ahrens.

With a greater sense of connection to the Grinnell community at a higher wage, off-campus work might be more valuable than ever, particularly due to recent labor disputes on campus.

Erik Henderson ’19 (left) and Rowan Kemmerly ’21 (right) both work off-campus at Prairie Canary, where they both enjoy a greater connection to the Grinnell community at large and better wages than they would recieve at an on-campus job. Photos by Andrew Tucker.
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