Students serve coffee, wait tables, attend to customers, give campus tours, assist in offices, conduct research, advise their peers, clean floors, and much more. On-campus, off-campus, earning a wage, earning credit, or taking unpaid internships, most college students work during school. Our project asks: Are they students or workers first? How do they find balance between their many responsibilities? And what happens when they don’t?
While a college degree is increasingly necessary to achieve social mobility, its rising costs mean more students need to seek employment to pay tuition and rent. Yet few entry-level and service jobs offer good wages, security, or positive working conditions, in large part because there is a constant surplus of student workers. Internships and assistantships only sometimes provide the valuable experience they promise. Today’s students are in debt, underpaid, and overworked.
All Worked Up seeks to explore the lives of working college students, the factors that lead them to pursue work while in school, and the conditions of their labor. Our goal is to spark conversations among students, faculty, administrators, and policymakers about the roles and realities of undergraduate labor in U.S. higher education.
All Worked Up is first and foremost an academic research project that seeks to explore key questions regarding student labor and begins to map out the different factors that have led to the current roles, wages, and conditions of undergraduate labor.
This online space serves as an exploration of the working student experience and includes short snippets of interviews with current working students, experts in student labor research, and professionals who hire student workers.
Our long-term goal is to create a documentary that pulls together the different factors, themes, and conclusions that come out of our research.
Chelsea (‘17) graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a major in Classics and a minor in Professional Writing. She is currently working in talent management and serving as a freelance writer and editor. For three years, Brandwein worked as a Resident Assistant (RA) in UCSB’s campus-owned housing and knows all too well the strain on college student workers to maintain a healthy balance. To All Worked Up, Brandwein brings skills in journalism and lifestyle writing, along with a deep appreciation for the sacrifices students make to include paid employment in their undergraduate experience.
Erika graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with degrees in Psychology and Comparative Literature. She worked about 16 jobs throughout her time in college and is excited to share the stories of other students that also consider themselves workers first and students second. She is a writer and multimedia designer, and will soon serve as the Digital Editor for the Santa Barbara Independent. She is the project's co-director and designer.
Heather is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Chicano Studies Institute and the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her primary field is critical university studies, and her research focuses on academic labor, the history of the U.S. university, and twentieth-century American literature. She is currently writing a book called Useful Work: Imagining Academic Labor in the American University. She is also a collaborator on the NEH-funded project "Limits of the Numerical: Metrics and the Humanities in Higher Education." She is thrilled to be collaborating with Chelsea, Erika, and our undergraduate teammates as the All Worked Up project's mentor and co-project director.
Our project is supported by Raab Writing Fellowships from the UCSB Writing Program and a UCSB Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Grant. We are truly grateful to Madeleine Sorapure, Director of the UCSB Writing Program, and Karen Lunsford for their help facilitating our project. We would also like to thank Nastacia Schmoll for her ideas and contributions as a core team member during the first year of the project.
“Digital Installation: Exploring the Lives of Student Workers” Erika Carlos, Affects & Effects: A Feminist Meta-Conference, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. April 2018.
“Enacting Solidarity with Student Workers and Students in Debt,” Chelsea Brandwein, Erika Carlos, and Dr. Heather Steffen, Cultural Studies Association Conference, Washington, DC. May 2017.
“All Worked Up: A Project About Student Labor,” Co-presented with Chelsea Brandwein and Nastacia Schmoll for the Raab Fellowship Presentation Showcase, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA. May 2017.
“All Worked Up: A Project About Student Labor,” Chelsea Brandwein, Erika Carlos, Nastacia Schmoll, and Dr. Heather Steffen for Undergraduate Research Colloquium, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA. May 2017.
“Writing the Lives of Working College Students,” a research poster presented by Chelsea Brandwein, Erika Carlos, Nastacia Schmoll, and Dr. Heather Steffen, Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), Portland, OR. March 2017.
We invite you to share your story and reflect on how your current academic, social, and financial responsibilities and expectations have influenced how much or how little you work, and under what conditions and wages you do so.
By exploring why students work and the effects of academic labor on the undergraduate experience, we hope to reveal the factors that have contributed to the indebted, underpaid, and overworked, yet often ignored and maligned, status of Millennial college students.
We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope you’ll join us to draw attention to the issue of undergraduate labor and to promote fairer academic, hiring, and working conditions for students who work.
Your participation would include filling out an information sheet and doing 2-hour videotaped interview that can be made public online and possibly in a documentary. You will have the option to choose whether your interviews, info sheet data, or any parts of them are used publicly, and we are willing to capture your experience through other means or anonymously if you prefer.