Mechanical engineering senior Tom Walker didn’t know what he was getting into when he showed up to an appreciation event for him and his fellow Off-Campus Life student employees on April 10.
His supervisors had kept it a secret that he had been selected as CSU’s Student Employee of the Year. And that he’d gone on to win that honor at the regional level as well. Oh, and then at the national level.
It’s believed to be the first time a CSU student has been named the country’s Student Employee of the Year by the National Student Employment Association (NSEA).
Off-Campus Life Assistant Director Lindsay Mason, who nominated Walker, made the announcement at an event in the Lory Student Center, then surprised him further by bringing his mom into the room so that she could be with him as he received the honor.
Walker, who works as data acquisition and analysis coordinator for RamRide, CSU’s safe-ride home program, received plaques and three scholarships: $1,000 from the CSU Office of Financial Aid, $500 from the regional Western Association of Student Employment Administrators (WASEA) and $1,000 from the NSEA.
Donya Gadley of the WASEA and Gloria Jenkins of the NSEA were also on hand and gave remarks at the ceremony, as did a teary-eyed Mason.
“Tom, I could go on and on about all the great things you’ve done for RamRide, and how talented of a student, employee and human you prove to be every day,” Mason said. “Suffice it to say that your graduation is bittersweet for me. I’m so excited for your future, but I know that you leaving our team will be rough. You have left a strong legacy with RamRide, and I am incredibly proud of you.”
In her nomination, Mason wrote that Walker consistently took the initiative to tackle issues he identified in his position, one that he actually proposed himself to address a gap in staffing.
“Tom’s arsenal of strengths include creative problem-solving and the ability to take initiative in solving those problems,” she wrote. “On several occasions, Tom has met with me to discuss a problem or a need he sees for RamRide and how he believes he could fix it.”
For example, when he noticed that RamRide users regularly asked how long they would have to wait to get a ride, Walker coded a program that would estimate wait times based on the day of the week, number of patrons in the ride and the rider’s number in the queue.
When he noticed inefficiencies in some of RamRide’s zones, he developed a formula that would determine a zone’s efficiency and implemented it into the system. To increase engagement among RamRide’s volunteer drivers, he developed a way to measure a group’s productivity throughout the night. Without revealing names, the system allowed groups to receive their rating and the ratings of other groups over the weekend, to see if their rating fell in the average range.
Above and beyond
“Tom also took on the responsibility of managing our dispatch system and mobile application,” Mason wrote. “Although it is not in his job description, he has mastered our technology, trains other staff members on how to use it, and Tom contacts our representatives if we want to make an update that he is unable to do by himself.”
Walker even developed a national presentation about his data collection efforts and delivered it at the national Safe Ride Programs United conference. The presentation has made an impact nationally, as multiple schools have asked for his help and a copy of his presentation.
“It is clear that other safe-ride programs want to use RamRide as a model for data collection and how to use that data to improve their program,” Mason wrote. “Tom has improved our program in ways I could not have.”
Jenkins read a letter from NSEA President Shirley Govindasamy.
“Your ability to analyze a situation, identify the problem and provide both the solution and the tools for realizing the solution are beyond impressive,” Govindasamy wrote. “Your nominator rightfully acknowledges the huge loss to the RamRide program that will come with your graduation.”
Walker graduates in May and has secured a full-time engineering job with Raytheon.