Published on Aug. 9, 2019
For Amanda Purchase Roberts, college jobs aren’t merely sources of income. They’re literally a way of life.
From practically the moment she walked onto Monmouth College’s campus in 1999 until today, she has worked at an institution of higher learning. Now, as senior manager of student employment at MU’s Career Center, she channels her career enthusiasm into opportunities for Tigers.
“My Monmouth undergraduate orientation packet had a Post-it note reading, ‘Please see the dean for a job’ because the financial aid director and I had chatted about needing work,” says Purchase Roberts, an Illinois native. “I was the campus switchboard operator, answering every call that came through the main line. I was also a student manager who opened and closed the student center, an RA in residential life and a writing tutor.”
After earning a degree in elementary education, she shifted her focus to higher education for graduate school at the University of South Florida in Tampa. USF also offered her a position in res life — complete with tuition, room and board. Since then she has worked at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Stephens College in Columbia and the MU Division of Student Affairs before moving to the Career Center in May 2018 to manage student employment initiatives.
“Reflecting back, it was never just a job,” Purchase Roberts says. “Those experiences helped me connect to campus, build a support system and acquire transferrable skills.”
More than 6,000 students are employed at MU, with 1,300-plus supervisors overseeing their work. Purchase Roberts spearheads the student employment initiative, a concerted effort to create more consistent and meaningful employment experiences for students. That starts with urging campus employers to list available positions on HireMizzouTigers.com, where Career Center staff direct students to apply.
It also includes guiding students toward job opportunities that align with their ultimate career goals, mentoring them to get the most out of campus employment and helping them articulate acquired skills after they move on.
“I love being able to stay on campus for work and school,” says Jacob Worsham, a senior natural resources science major and a manager at the Memorial Union Starbucks. “It makes my day more cohesive. And you are usually working with college students around your same age, which is how I’ve made a lot of friends at Mizzou.”
College employment might be considered a rite of passage by most, but to Purchase Roberts, it’s much more than that.
“Communication skills, time management, problem solving, leadership and teamwork — all of those competencies and skill sets complement academics,” Purchase Roberts says. “Students often hear ‘when you get in the real world.’ Well, that discredits this world.
“Everything they do is impacting the vision, the mission and the goals of the university.”