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Learning by Leading: Assistant Sparks Center Coordinator

by Jennifer Johnson,

Campus employment at Willamette University offers students more than a chance to make money. In the "Learning by Leading" series, we talk to student employees about the real-world experience they gain and the interpersonal communication, problem-solving and critical thinking skills they develop while on the job.

Name: Oliver Kushen BA’23

Major: Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics (PPLE) 

Title: Assistant Sparks Center Coordinator  

Oliver Kushen ’22
Oliver Kushen ’22

What are your main job duties? It’s changed within the last few months. I started at Sparks over two years ago as a front desk staffer, where I helped oversee the building. Now I handle the scheduling for 26 staff members, make sure the gym and pool are staffed and running smoothly. 

What leadership skills does your role teach you? General professionalism, both from the perspective of a student and an administrator. I know what it’s like to work with administrators, figure out the best ways to implement their goals and how to relay student feedback to them. 

As a student, I know how difficult it can be to balance work with other priorities. I’m the marketing coordinator for campus recreation — I handle all of the marketing for the Outdoor Program, intramurals and Sparks — and I’m an assistant in the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership, where I have another core staff I’m in charge of. I’m also the editor of the Toilet Paper and applying to grad schools, so all of that takes time. 

So the biggest skill I’ve learned is how to be empathetic and patient. Student schedules can be tricky, and I take their workload into consideration more. I plan on going into higher education administration after college, so all of this experience helps. 

Why is this a great job? The experience I have gained in the position — it will benefit me in any future career path I go down.

Name one surprising thing about working there. Be prepared for anything to happen. There’s a surprising range of possible emergencies that can happen at Sparks because it’s used for exercise, so we’re trained on emergency procedures for a variety of scenarios, like what to do during an earthquake or if someone has a heart attack while they’re working out. 

Every Sparks staff member is CPR AED-certified — lifeguards have a higher level of certification—and I’ve also done a lot of non-official training through Director of Campus Recreation Tony Stafford. I’ve learned a lot. 

Willamette University

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