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HPER remains largest employer of students on campus


Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014 12:01


Photo by J.Christoffersen/ The Gateway

HPER offers not only employment opportunities bu also life skills for workers

Dressed in a crisp black polo shirts and enveloped in hairspray, she races between selling memberships to the campus’ workout hub and cleaning machinery. Balancing jobs as a control desk employee and weight room supervisor, senior Kaleigh Molgaard zips through the school of Health, Physical Recreation and Education (HPER), which doubles as a gym for all students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, to ensure that patrons are happy and everything is running as smooth as a track rotating around the spokes of a treadmill, her curly blonde hair bouncing along with her stride.

“I look forward to going to work because I get to meet new people every day, and I think that’s really exciting,” Molgaard said. “I’ve met a lot of people within the building and even out, just by having a conversation with them.”

Molgaard is just one of the approximately 175 student workers within HPER, UNO’s largest  on-campus student employer. From lifeguards and Zumba instructors to personal trainers and weight room supervisors, HPER not only employs students in a variety of positions but encourages camaraderie between all employees.

In the summer of 2008, Joe Kaminski, director of Campus Recreation, analyzed HPER’s growth within five years, projecting that the staff would need to increase by 40 and that the facilities would need to expand to compliment UNO’s growth. Fast forward to 2013, five years later and three years since HPER underwent an over $40 million makeover, Kaminski said many of 2008’s plans have come to fruition.

“As the population grows, we have to look at how it will impact the facility and its need to grow,” Kaminski said. “We always need to keep in mind though that this is a place where people come to have a good time, where people leave the building in a better mood than when they came in. A big part of accomplishing that is the quality of the staff, and HPER’s staff certainly has a sense of community to it.”

In between the rows of dumbbells and treadmills, amid the sweating bodies lifting half their body weight in iron-plated weights and the quick-footed runners zooming around the indoor track, lies the real working heart of HPER-- its employees.

Molgaard’s coworker at the front desk, Nick Brau, who also works as an injury prevention and care supervisor within the building, said he can remember being confused and nervous his first day on the job. Trying to learn the computer systems while also honing his personal communication skills while interacting with students checking into the building, Brau had to acclimate quickly. After working at HPER for two and half years, Brau said he has found his home away from home.

“Everyone is always greeting each other or just coming up and talking in between classes or before they workout,” Brau said. “We have a bunch of inside jokes that only people who work at HPER or the front desk would get, and we have to deal with numerous and unpredictable situations.”

While Brau said that his job isn’t as easy as everyone assumes it may be, staying in the same building for classes and work and entering the building before the sun rises and leaving after it sets many days, he still looks forward to coming to work for one reason.

“I look forward to my job because of the people I work with,” Brau said. “It is a fun and social environment.”

Kaminski said it is this social aspect of the job that will help student employees later in their future careers. By interacting with different employees and their fellow co-workers, HPER employees are given the opportunity to not only polish their customer service skills but also learn how to effectively and quickly solve problems and hone their sales skills when selling different memberships.

“The job has improved my customer service skills, without a doubt,” said Will Heida, weight room supervisor, control desk worker, building manager and personal trainer. “Dealing with upset customers on a regular basis has strengthened my ability to deal with people under pressure as well as make decisions on the fly. I’ve also learned leadership skills as a building manager.”

To hire employees, Kaminski begins the process by posting the application on UNO’s student employment site, managed by human resources. Once the application has been reviewed, students may be invited to be interviewed by the assistant director corresponding to their desired position. Occasionally, Kaminski has encouraged students to also be involved in asking questions during the interviews in order to gain more voices in the decision-making process.

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