First and lasting

Baldrige impact evident 15 years later in Student Jobs Program

January 12, 2017

Sean Doering, a 2016 graduate, and Associate Professor Jen Grant talk about Doering’s research conducted in the Student Jobs Program.

Fifteen years ago University of Wisconsin-Stout made national news when it won the Malcolm S. Baldrige National Quality Award for organizational quality and performance.

The university continues to take pride in the fact that it remains the only four-year higher education institution to receive the award.

But what about today? Is being a recipient of the Baldrige — announced Nov. 30, 2001, and awarded March 2, 2002, in Washington, D.C., by President George W. Bush — little more than a historical footnote?

If one outcome can serve as an example of the university’s operational excellence, then it’s clear the award has meant much more. In 2012 the Student Jobs Program began on campus. It was created in large part because UW-Stout has continued to follow the core values identified in the Baldrige framework, one of which is management by fact.

The jobs program was initiated, in part, to increase student retention by providing more engaging on-campus experiences. In addition, it was supported by faculty and staff during another Baldrige-inspired planning event, all-campus Engagement Sessions held each fall on campus. The sessions provide further evidence of UW-Stout’s commitment to the Baldrige core value of valuing people.

Meridith DrzakowskiAt the Engagement Sessions, faculty, staff and students suggest new ideas and improvements to plans and practices. Some of these suggestions, like the Student Jobs Program, become action items. The university implements the action items and reports related initiatives and results back to campus at the start of the spring semester during You Said, We Did presentations, including one at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, when the new semester begins for faculty.

In nearly five years, a total of 300 students have benefited from the Student Jobs Program, or an average of about 60 per academic year.

Program improves retention

The program appears to be working: Retention rates of students in the program are up to 10 points higher than average on campus, according to campus data. 

“It’s clear that students who participate in the job program are more likely to stay in school and earn their degrees than students who don’t,” said Assistant Chancellor Meridith Drzakowski, a national Baldrige examiner who oversees the university’s office of Planning, Assessment, Research and Quality and administers the jobs program. “The focus is on meaningful experiences.”

The program provides $500 per semester to students hired by various departments. Students also benefit from focused work experiences while engaging in meaningful projects with faculty, staff and fellow students.

Sean Doering does research in a science lab while employed in the Student Jobs Program.Associate Professor Jen Grant, biology, knows the value of the program. She has employed seven students since 2013 in labs at Jarvis Hall Science Wing.

“I’ve seen exceptional personal and professional growth in the jobs recipients,” Grant said. “My research program wouldn’t be where it is today without them. There isn’t any question that the stipend allowed me to hire and retain the best students.”

Grant’s students have done research, for example, on phosphorylation within a protein component of egg yolk and have evaluated the lipid content of potential fuel oils extracted from weeds.

One of those students was Sean Doering, of Green Bay, who graduated with honors in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied science.

“The variety of experiments I have been able to perform and the people I have been able to work with has kept my interest and excitement about college and scientific research burning. This job opportunity has even inspired me to pursue further education in graduate school,” Doering said about the program while employed.

Other jobs within the program have led students into a variety of research: Discovery Center Fab Lab, clothing design, video game design and teaching. The Take2 video and news team also is made up of students in the program.

UW-Stout's Malcolm S. Baldrige National Quality Award.“Students have reported that their positions influenced their decisions to stay at UW-Stout,” Drzakowski said.

Drzakowski noted that student employment is a leading indicator in closing the achievement gap for racial and ethnic minorities, one reason the jobs program has been recognized as a “best practice” by the UW System Board of Regents.

Baldrige commitment

The jobs program is funded through the Chancellor’s Special Project Fund, Stout University Foundation and federal work-study funds, with final funding for proposals approved by the chancellor. A proposal must include at least one job for a freshman.

Adherence to Baldrige core values continues to benefit UW-Stout in many ways, Drzakowski said.

“The Baldrige program has had a tremendous impact on enhancing our processes to engage the workforce and students in decision-making, our willingness to take risks and to focus on our success.” Drzakowski said. “The You Said, We Did program provides direct evidence of the success we have experienced as a result of listening to faculty, staff and students.”

Learn more about the Baldrige here.



Top: Sean Doering, a 2016 graduate, and Associate Professor Jen Grant talk about Doering’s research conducted in the Student Jobs Program.

Second: Meridith Drzakowski

Third: Sean Doering does research in a science lab while employed in the Student Jobs Program.

Bottom: UW-Stout's Malcolm S. Baldrige National Quality Award, presented at a 2002 ceremony in Washington, D.C.