How many student workers do you employ in your store? At UC Davis Stores, they comprise a large part of the staff overall, with about 200 student workers to 40 full-time employees. Every department has students in supervisory or lead roles, and according to Director Jason Lorgan, they’re even the ones in charge on weekends.
But Lorgan doesn’t worry about giving their students such a high level of responsibility. After all, many of the members of their full-time staff worked in the UC Davis Stores during their student days, including the current assistant director of Finance, associate director of Technology and coordinator of Online Sales and Services.
Now they’ve even got an award-winner on staff. Andrew Musca (who also happens to be the first student manager in the UC Davis Stores’ history) just received the 2015 Northern California Student Employee of the Year. Musca started working for the store in 2012 and quickly demonstrated his dedication, initiative and aptitude for supervising. When it came time to decide who would administer the stores’ rental program (which is the nation’s largest based on rentals per full-time student), the choice was clear to Assistant Director Kato Meley.
“Andrew’s deep concern for his fellow students and his desire to make an impact on their well-being made him the perfect candidate, “ Meley said. “Since Andrew started administering our rentals (in Summer Session 1 2013), we have rented approximately 67,000 textbooks, generating a gross revenue of $4.1 million. But most astonishing is that the direct savings to UC Davis students have been $1.8 million!”
With hardworking, exceptional examples like Musca, it’s no surprise that UC Davis Stores values its student employees so highly. And having students on staff also provides additional benefits, like keeping the rest of the employees up to date on the latest trends and lending real insight into how their main customer base feels about the products and services the stores offer.
“Students are our primary customers and as such are an invaluable resource on staff,” Lorgan said. “They may have taken the class being asked about or used the art supply a student needs for their course work. While career and student staff alike are aware of the difficulties students have to afford their course materials, in most cases, it has been quite some time since a career staff member actually got out their wallet to purchase a textbook.”
Student employees join in on clothing buying meetings to make sure the products will appeal to 18-22-year-olds, fill the other staff members in on how they’re using technology in their courses to inform future purchasing decisions and in general, lend a fresh perspective that helps the UC Davis Stores keep up with a changing market.
“Perhaps what is most valuable is that student employees see collegiate retail from the prism of how it is today,” Lorgan said. “It is normal to them that there are many options for students to consider. They have always known the textbook industry to be highly competitive. This insight is very valuable as new programs are developed to deal with the rapid changes we all face.”
“I often hear other stores voice concerns that they aren’t sure they can entrust their student employees to do the jobs that have a big financial impact on their stores,” Meley added. “But I always like to point out that these student employees are our future bridge builders, doctors and college professors. Why wouldn’t we utilize this very accessible, willing and capable workforce? When we recognize their value and leadership qualities, great things can happen. Their success is our success, and vice versa!”