Partnership Lowers Student Debt, Builds Workforce Readiness

Mahmudur is a graduate of ASU whose work with a global online payment processing company helped open the door to his career.

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Anita-Verdugo-Tarango-ASU Staff

Author: Anita Verdugo Tarango

Director, Outreach, Arizona State University


Mahmudur Choundhury is a recent graduate of Arizona State University (ASU) whose work with a global online payment processing company while still in school helped open the door to his professional career. And that work during college was made possible through an innovative partnership between ASU and Education at Work (EAW).

Choundhury works in customer care for the payment processing company, where he got his start through the ASU-EAW partnership. Through EAW, students from ASU are gaining professional skills and lowering their student debt. And for Choundhury, the work with EAW gave him the opportunity to stand out among his peers.

He worked part time in a customer service role through EAW, developing affinity for the brand, establishing a clear understanding of its customers, and building the necessary soft skills to succeed post-graduation.

Mahmudur Choundhury

Putting soft skills to work

Choundhury’s work through EAW allowed him to showcase his ability to implement coaching and feedback immediately and to work well with customers and co-workers. This experience not only garnered Choundhury $1,000 to help cover tuition costs, but it also set him up for a successful transition into a professional position.

His success story is just one from the 400 ASU students who have benefited from employment at EAW in the past year.

Arizona State University is an institution that prides itself on a charter that says that we “measure ourselves not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed.” Much of our work is rooted in this statement, and we are committed to student success. Education at Work, a Strada Education NetworkSM company, is a nonprofit organization that partners with companies that hire high-achieving students in an effort to provide work experience while reducing student debt.ASU-TA-Check

So when EAW surfaced as a potential partner, it was quickly evident that this organization shared values similar to ASU’s, with a student-centered work environment and all of the benefits that students gain by working at EAW.

EAW has been an excellent way for our students to reduce their debt for school — which contributes to their overall success. To date, EAW has awarded over $3 million in hourly wages and tuition assistance to ASU students.

As Education at Work student-employees, ASU students have gained employable skills, a competitive wage, and tuition assistance. There are few jobs that can offer all these benefits, so it was not surprising that we had over 700 applicants within the first few months!

Connecting education to employment

Students are doing engaging work that is surpassing the expectations of the company’s staff. One of the long-term outcomes that we hope to achieve is to have ASU students gain full-time employment with the companies to which they are introduced through their work at EAW. We look forward to more long-term success stories like Choundhury’s in the future.

At ASU, we pride ourselves in being the No. 1 school for innovation. We encourage our students, faculty and staff to be innovative in finding solutions to local and global issues.

Our partnership with EAW is another way we are being innovative and making an impact for our students, so that they can graduate with more employable skills and less debt.


Click to view the original post on the Strada Education Network Blog


Beyond Coding & Networking – EAW’s IT Team at ASU

Education at Work’s ASU IT team has been hard at work with several labor intensive tech projects.

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Education at Work’s (EAW) Arizona State University (ASU) IT team has been hard at work with several labor intensive tech projects, including preparing our new 17,000 square foot expansion facility at ASU. This new site will have capacity for up to two client programs comprised of a combined 250 FTE positions for customer service and back office support. Despite being busy at work, there has been time for the ASU IT team led by our Director, Jad Greer, to venture out for some fun activities to encourage camaraderie and team building.

Over Memorial Day weekend, our ASU IT team along with our ASU Educational Outreach team, attended the downtown Phoenix Comic-Con & expo, an annual event that celebrates superhero fandom and pop culture through features, such as pop culture actors, top comic book writers & artists, computer/video game programmers, costuming and exhibitors, etc. In order to dress the part, our team decided to suit up in costumes to fit right in with other attendees. This practice is also referred to


as “cosplaying” within the Comic-Con community. Our team cosplayed as characters from Star Wars, Kiki from Kiki’s delivery service, and Negan from the Walking Dead.

Inside Comic-Con, the team walked around the convention hall floor, checked out exhibitor booth spaces, met interesting people and famous actor characters comic books, superhero movies and video games, as well as took lots of fun selfies and photos involving props. In addition, our team hit a specialized arcade where they played classic arcade titles, such as X-Men: The Arcade Game, Area 51, Donkey Kong, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. This created some friendly competition and collaboration through the goal of advancing as far as possible through different

stages of each game. Lastly, our team enjoyed some staged medieval fighting, and shopped for Star Wars Lightsabers, t-shirts, and artwork. They report almost purchasing a Pokeball phone charger for the office.

EAW-IT-Team-Comic-Con-Storm-Trooper   ASU-Comic-Con-Halo-pic

Although the team enjoys play time together, in the office, they have a major focus around developing as professionals. Jad has put together several guests speaking sessions to bring in local working professionals with lots of background knowledge and experience within the IT field. Thus far, some of the standout speakers include:

Scott Wiegand - Program Manager at Vocado Software

  • Scott presented his unique perspective as an IT leader, but also shared knowledge from his extensive background working on IT projects at a technical level.
  • Scott advanced his business knowledge by earning his MBA. Career roles he previously held such as a Program Manager, Project Manager, and Software Engineer for companies, like Oracle’s PeopleSoft were foundational building blocks.

Jason Blade – Consultant (Unix Engineer II) at CGI

  • With over 8-years of IT experience, Jason shared his knowledge of setting up Unix/Linux based servers, along with the hardware infrastructure they run on. He also shared ways he managed networking and desktop support, database software and system administration.
  • Jason too worked for a number of well-known companies, such as Limelight Networks, The Apollo Group, and DHL.

Kim Naugle – Storage Administrator at OneNeck IT Solutions

  • With 17-years of working in IT, Kim communicated the value of being a “jack-of-all-trades” and learning as much general knowledge about each part of the IT field as possible. From jack of all trades she was able to find her niche and specialize in data storage administration.
  • Kim brings to the table vast experience within storage and database administration, desktop support, server, printer, and application backups.

Exposure to speakers like these taught our ASU IT team the value of completing their IT degrees, and gaining meaningful work experience within many areas of the IT field before honing in on a specialization. These speaking sessions illuminated the many different paths to a successful IT career. EAW’s IT leadership team will continue to provide more learning opportunities around IT best practices.


Student Success: Sukhleen Bal

During her childhood, Sukhleen Bal had the unique experience of leaving her family in the U.S. to enroll in elementary school in India.

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During her childhood, Sukhleen Bal had the unique experience of leaving her family in the U.S. to enroll in elementary school in India. She considered this a cultural journey. Not only did Sukhleen receive her elementary education in India, but she also connected with her heritage through experiencing first-hand the people and culture. Sukhleen discovered that India upholds distinct rules and traditions. Although not required, it was typical in India for Sukhleen’s hair to be styled in a traditional way to align with cultural norms. In addition, Sukhleen witnessed more extreme ways in which women are discriminated against in Indian society. In India, women are traditionally not allowed to work or advocate for themselves. Even though Sukhleen fully embraces her diverse cultural background, she became passionate after this experience in regards to social justice and women’s rights.

Through her experiences in India, Sukhleen has a global perspective when it comes to her education. Post high school, Sukhleen enrolled at Arizona State University (ASU) to study Global Business Management. Funding her education was a concern until she received an email from ASU’s staff recommending Education at Work (EAW) as an on-campus opportunity to gain work skills and earn tuition assistance (TA). Through EAW’s TA program, along with assistance from scholarships and financial aid, Sukhleen is currently debt-free as she prepares to enter her junior year.

Sukhleen’s starting role at EAW was a Customer Email Support Rep for an online payments processing client. She quickly worked her way up to Workforce Analyst. Sukhleen’s ultimate career goal is one she is passionate about; defending the rights of those who can’t speak for themselves. In order to make this dream a reality, she plans to eventually earn a JD from a top law school.

During her tenure with EAW, Sukhleen has gained valuable work experience that will translate to her law career, such as how to work under pressure and communicate effectively. Starting in early August, she is taking a leave of absence from EAW to study abroad in Rome and London, and hopes to return for another year on EAW’s WFM team. Our organization wishes Sukhleen great success as she studies abroad and as a future lawyer!

Education at Work & ASU shakeup Call Center Week 2017

The EAW client development & marketing team stepped up to the big leagues and attended the CCW conference in Las Vegas.

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At the end of June, the Education at Work (EAW) client development & marketing team stepped up to the big leagues and attended the annual Call Center Week (CCW) conference in Las Vegas. This is the largest U.S. based conference in the customer service and contact center industry. Our primary objective was to host a roundtable discussion session at CCW that would allow our team to explain EAW’s on-campus contact center model to prospective business clients. However, we wanted to avoid the mistake of presenting in the same old boring roundtable format, so we were creative and developed a fun and engaging session.

For our roundtable, the topic about our business model was called, “More than Metrics: How a university based contact center delivers a career ready, professional pipeline.” We wanted to showcase that operating an effective contact center requires not only meeting your metrics, but also going above and beyond with added benefits. One way additional value is created for our clients is a robust talent pipeline, ready to go as students’ graduate.


In order to ensure full participation at our roundtable, our team was “all hands on deck” the first couple of days at CCW actively promoting the session by engaging in conversations and handing out flyers to relevant prospects.

Once our audience was in the room, we gave a brief introduction, and then quickly divided attendees into three groups representing the components of our model: Client, University, and Student audiences. During the brainstorming portion of our session, all three groups compiled a list of benefits and concerns they associated with our model. As a visual tool, we designed giant puzzle pieces for each group to write down their responses on.CCW-roundtable-session

After 15-minutes, we brought the group back together in the center of the room to readout their puzzle pieces and debrief. The session format worked well as it generated great group thinking and provided an interactive method to learn from one another. This approach also actively involved the attendees in the session, instead of the traditional panel format of “talking heads”. Our partner from Arizona State University, Edmundo Hidalgo, shared his experiences working with our on-campus contact center model. He demonstrated the benefits of a strong partnership between EAW, a forward-thinking university (ASU) and a global online payment processing business client. At the end of our session, we had insightful questions from our attendees and definite interest in further exploration of the model.

Our last takeaway from the event is one of mixed emotion. Even though our team actively recruited attendees to join our session, we were disappointed in the lack of support provided by the conference organizers. Had we not made the effort to socialize our session


on our own, it is likely few people would have attended. As a non-profit, we concluded that a smaller customer experience or talent management focused event would be a better use of our marketing budget.EAW-team-CCW-day-1

In conclusion, we would like to extend a big thanks to everyone who attended and participated in our CCW roundtable!




Student Success: Jermaine Drake

Jermaine Drake maintains a strong work ethic as he completes his undergrad degree in Health and Wellness from MSJ.

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As a self-motivated college student, Jermaine Drake maintains a strong work ethic as he completes his undergrad degree in Health and Wellness from Mount St. Joseph University. His determination to overcome challenges and focus on big picture goals sets him apart. Even though the Cleveland, OH neighborhood where Jermaine is from did not provide a clear pathway to attend college, his family placed a high importance on the value of earning a degree. Jermaine’s mother attended community college so she could stay home to raise him and his siblings, and Jermaine’s father also earned a college degree to help advance his career. Jermaine’s family has provided immense support urging him to focus on attaining his dreams, but additional resources were needed to make them possible.

Fortunately, Jermaine and his family discovered that working for Education at Work (EAW) would create an opportunity to help him learn relevant job skills, provide additional financial support and fuel his desire to complete his degree.

Jermaine’s big dream is to be a professional football player, but he knows he needs to have a backup plan. He formulated his plan “B” to merge his love of sports with career goals. If the NFL doesn’t work out, Jermaine will earn his fitness-training license and pursue a career as a personal trainer. On this pathway, his primary post-grad opportunity would be to practice personal training at a nonprofit in Cleveland called Little Giants. This organization aims to teach inner-city youth how to have a healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, and how to overcome adversity to play at their full potential.

While working at EAW, Jermaine has served as a counselor in the student loan space, connecting graduates to services that enable them to create a pathway to loan repayment. Learning the fundamentals of how student loans work and the impact of repayment post- graduation, has resulted in Jermaine making his own more-informed financial decisions. He also credits EAW for helping him acquire valuable workplace experience and confidence, and hopes to eventually advance his education with an MBA degree. We look forward to seeing the future impact Jermaine will have on others, and hope to watch him make it onto the field in the NFL, with a second career firmly in his back pocket!