Career center staff decreases may result in reduced student services

The Student Involvement and Career Center at SF State had nine staff members and one manager in 2008. Four years later, only one counselor remains to assist more than 30,000 students.

The center was organized to help students with a future career, but a lot of services for students might get lost.

“I don’t know if there is going to be any more staff hired. They keep telling me it’s because of the budget cuts,” Mariko Hingston, the sole counselor for the career center, said.

The career center works closely with employers, faculty, staff and student organizations to help those in the process of looking for internships, part-time student employment, co-op programs and full-time professional employment.

Lauren Harrington went to the career center in the past, but hasn’t been there for more than one year. Her first experience came while looking for jobs her freshman year, where she said she was given some brochures for job fairs and resume-building seminars.

“I wasn’t in a hurry and there was no one else waiting to be helped; the counselor gave me as much information as he could to help me,” the 20-year-old broadcast and electronic communication arts major said. “I’ve been there a couple of times since to try to find out where to get things taken care of, for example finding my guidance counselor and figuring out about scholarships. Every time they’ve been efficient, helpful and upbeat.”

According to University President Leslie E. Wong, all staffing decisions were made prior to his arrival at SF State this semester.

“I know that Student Affairs is looking into (staffing) right now,” Wong said. “The staff is looking at how career counseling happens in other places, but the perception where students think it’s a job placement needs to change as well.”

Harrington noticed that over the past few years, there have been fewer people working at the center desk leading to longer lines.

“I try to avoid it now, unless there’s less than a couple people waiting,” she said. “I’ve seen the line double on itself before. The longest I’ve waited in a line was the day I moved in after freshman year, which was about half an hour.”

Kirsten Liaz works at both Leadership, Engagement, Action, Development — a center for student leadership and campus activities — and the career center. The two share a floor in the Student Services building.

“Last year, we had three counselors. One found a better job and the second one moved,” she said.

Before the drastic reduction in staff, the career center was set up to serve students Tuesdays and Thursdays. At the beginning of this semester, students could email Hingston for an appointment. According to Liaz, Hingston received about 70 emails in the first couple of weeks and took her email address off the website due to the rush.

“Nowadays, she has quick questions where she filters out which need to be appointments and which can be quickly answered. That’s something different now (that) she is the only counselor,” she said. “There is life after college; the career center leads to other opportunities.”

Adapting to college can be overwhelming, Liaz said. She thinks that students don’t come in the center early enough in their college years.

“Out of 10, I would say three or four freshmen come in, asking for resources in the first month. Compared to seniors, they are scrambling.”

Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell explained that Student Affairs and Enrollment Management has needed to make some difficult staffing decisions due to budget cuts. He stated that this was also the experience within the career center when it was decided to combine the center with LEAD.

“With this new model, one manager is able to provide vision for the new department. In addition, a staff member from LEAD who has academic counseling experience will provide additional career counseling services for students in the future,” he said. “The staff of the Student Involvement and Career Center have worked diligently together to continue providing quality services for students.”

Greenwell said that the career center’s budget is not on student fees. Students who come into the career center are currently referred to career workshops, online career resources and drop-in hours instead of going directly into one-on-one meetings with a counselor.

“However, students that cannot attend a workshop or drop-in hours and/or need more time than what can be answered with these services have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a career counselor,” he said. “While this might not be ideal, students seeking career resources are able to have their fundamental career service needs met.”

Carlos Davidson, a professor in the environmental studies program, thinks the career center would benefit from an increase in staff.

“Reduction in the number of counselors at the career center are a real shame as our students, especially first generation college students, need help navigating the work world — help with resumes, interviewing and job search strategies,” he said.