Q&A with English Work-Study Student Elisa Valero

A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email:

“Dear Employers,” it reads. “As we plan for National Student Employment Week (April 9 – 13, 2012) we’d like to hear what your office has done in the past to recognize your student employees. We’ll organize and publish what we learn.”

So … in honor of National Student Employment Week, the GWEnglish blog offers a profile of work-study student Elisa Valero. (Previously, we featured work-study student Tori Kerr.)


English work-study student Elisa Valero

Elisa Valero, an English major/ history minor, originally hails from DC, although she grew up in Miami. She is currently enrolled in the English dual-degree program, which allows students to earn their MA in as little as one year (instead of the more typical two). Students who enroll in this program usually come from English Honors.

Did you know about National Student Employment Week? How do you feel about being recognized?

I had no idea there was a Student Employment Week, so I’m really surprised and pleased! It’s really wonderful to be recognized as a part of the department and made to feel like the work I do is appreciated by my professors and fellow students. I guess I really feel like part of the team now.

What’s the best thing about working in the English department?

Oh, definitely the company. We usually don’t take ourselves too seriously in the English department. Every time I go into work I know I’m going to be laughing hysterically for a significant portion of the day. Everyone in the department is so sharp and witty, and it’s great to get to joke around and learn so much at the same time. Getting to see my professors out of class and establish a less formal relationship with them has also made me appreciate their intelligence even more.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve been asked to do or the oddest phone call you’ve answered?

I think the oddest thing I’ve been asked to do was go buy flowers. I walked into the office one morning last semester and the first thing I was asked, before I sat down or anything, was “How’s your taste in flowers?” I was still waking up, so I was just like, “Am I hearing this right?” But as it turns out, the department wanted to congratulate a professor on an event she’d organized the night before, so I went on a little journey to pick out pretty flowers and bring them back. I was actually really nervous about it the whole time because I was terrified I would pick something I thought looked nice and return with them only to discover my taste in flowers was horrible and tacky, but they got a lot of compliments over the day, so I was feeling pretty smug that day.

On a more serious note: How does work-study fit into your experience at GW? What are your thoughts about affording college–not necessarily GW specifically, but private colleges and universities generally? Students elsewhere (in California, for example) have been protesting student debt. Are you and your friends also concerned about student debt?

Definitely. Because I am about to graduate, my debt is really weighing on me right now (I’ve been content to ignore the problem for the last three years). It’s a big concern. I do think that student debt is a huge problem, like everything else economically right now, it’s got to change or something is going to break. It’s not fair that so many bright students are forced to spend decades of their lives paying off loans because they wanted the best possible education. I have been very lucky with GW, however. The financial aid I get from work study helps me save up a little for when the interest starts piling on my loans, and the tuition benefits I get from my father’s time at GW helps a lot, as well.

Are there particular courses/professors/areas of literary or cultural study that you’ve particularly enjoyed at GW?

I took two Shakespeare classes with Professor Harris last year, and I think those were the ones that have stuck with me the most. He had a perfect balance between making classes absolutely brilliant and thought-provoking and making them hilarious and enjoyable, too. He pushed us to think so much harder, but he did it in a way where it didn’t feel like work. He also always made us go a step further, and I definitely think a lot more critically now than I did before those classes. They are a huge part of why I am going to go on and do grad school in English next year.

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