Learning to do, doing to learn

 September 14, 2020

Duke Kunshan’s student work program has placed 325 students in 774 positions on campus, providing essential professional experience.

By Fei Xu

Office of Career Services

“Where do you work?”

It’s a common question among undergraduates at Duke Kunshan, where students are encouraged to practice, enhance and complement the skills and knowledge they learn in the classroom by taking on campus jobs.

As of April, students held positions across 50 university offices, centers and departments, with roles including laboratory researcher, editorial assistant, language coach, marketing assistant, admissions ambassador, and many more.

Duke Kunshan’s student work program is unique in that it focuses on personal growth, providing students with opportunities to explore their interests and develop new abilities, and preparing them for the competitive 21st-century job market.

Nomunsor Soronzonbold ’22 from Mongolia works for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. She manages the alumni speaker series and the monthly alumni newsletter, and helps make videos and organize events for donors and scholarship recipients.

“I really like my job because I can interact with alumni and improve my skills in creativity and communication,” said Soronzonbold, who majors in institutions and governance. “It’s a real pleasure to have such an interesting job and work with a caring and supportive team. With every event, I realize I’ve learned something new that’s helpful and important for my future career.”

From left: Student workers Yanfei Mao, Nomunsor Soronzonbold and Ziang Zhou

Yanfei Mao ’22 from Jiangsu province, China, said working in the master of science in global health program in her freshman year brought many firsts – writing a press release, editing an official social media account, designing an event brochure. She now works for the Office of Executive Education and recently helped deliver a live online course for Boeing employees.

“In this high-intensity business atmosphere, I’ve learned a lot every day to enrich myself, allowing me to face the challenges of the future workplace confidently and calmly,” said Mao, a global health major.

Duke Kunshan’s research centers also provide opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in cutting-edge fields of study, such as artificial intelligence, and to contribute to published work.

Data science major Ziang Zhou ’22 has worked for the past two summers as a lab assistant in professor Ming Li’s Speech and Multimodal Intelligent Information Processing (SMIIP) Lab. In that time, he’s reproduced an automatic speech-recognizer that can identify digits in English and French in real time, and explored computational paralinguistic challenges.

“Systematic training has equipped me with a more rigorous mindset,” he said. “Plus, scientific research has many benefits for graduate program applications. If your get a paper published, it’s solid proof of your research ability.”

In his sophomore year, Zhou, from Sichuan province, China, also worked for the Academic Resource Center as a peer tutor, helping other students issues related to data science and computer science. He said the role has taught him to be a good listener and improved his time management skills.

Since its launch in 2018, participation in Duke Kunshan’s student work program has been high, with 325 students having filled 774 positions. In the 2018-19 academic year, nearly a third of undergraduates obtained one or more campus jobs, said Frank Tian, director of the Office of Career Services, which runs the program.

Like any job, candidates need to apply for campus positions by providing a resume and cover letter, and passing an interview. Once hired, students sign a contract and receive a fixed stipend to cover expenses.

“By taking up rich, high-quality job opportunities across teaching, research and administrative departments, the students contribute to DKU’s daily operations while effectively improving their academic and professional abilities, such as in problem solving, interpersonal skills, and other soft and hard skills,” Tian said.