From Peer to Boss

By: Sandra Hickethier

Since its reopening in January 2012, the Technology department’s automotive repair shop has undergone many changes. The once titled Wolfpack Auto now services the community under the name University Auto. The shop has also seen some new management.

Jacob Weaver, senior automotive management major, has been serving as the University Auto service manager, while Bev-Lea Wessels, junior graphic design and mass communications major, has been serving as the office manager.

While this may not seem significant at first, it represents the technology department’s commitment to giving students as much real world experience as possible. University Auto is completely student led, with Weaver and Wessels reporting only to Rob Holm, Assistant Professor of Technology, and head of the automotive program.

Most of University Auto’s minutia are taken care of by the student management team. “I’m the big dog in charge,” Holm said. “But I hire shop managers to coordinate the day to day operations of University Auto.”

The management positions for the auto shop have not always been filled by students. In the past staff members have been hired from the community. But in fall quarter of 2012, Weaver approached Holm and asked if acting as service manager for University Automotive would work as a viable senior project.

“He told me yes, so I ran with the idea and presented a senior outline,” Weaver said.

Wessels started out as a temporary assistant, providing managerial help when it was needed. But as more and more work came her way, Wessels was hired on to University Auto as the office manager.

The service manager is in charge of most of the operations of University Auto. He makes schedules for the technicians that do not conflict with their class schedules.

“In my opinion,” Weaver said, “the technicians are here for their education. That’s what is most important to me.”

He also schedules appointments for customer vehicles and coordinates their drop off times with his own work hours. Weaver is a full time student, and has to coordinate his work hours around his classes.

“I answer questions when necessary and assist the technicians when I am able,” Weaver said. “I am in charge of general work flow, and making sure that work is of good quality.”

The office manager, on the other hand, has much different responsibilities.

“Since I am not an auto major, I don't have the same level of knowledge as the shop manager, Jake, or as the techs,” Wessels said. “I deal mostly with the business aspects of the shop as needed. This could include anything from balancing the books, to organizing data.”

While these managerial experiences are excellent for the students that take them, they can be challenging.

“It’s difficult to be "in charge" of my peers,” said Weaver. “Most of them are fairly close to the same age as myself and have gone through the program with me. It has been a difficult transition to go from a peer at times to a boss at other times.”

Published February 25, 2013

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Last update on October 17, 2013