The Challenges of Working on the Block Plan

While the Block Plan offers incredible opportunities for experimental learning and immersion, there are also unintended, non-academic consequences, such as the difficulty of work. Given Colorado College’s unique academic calendar, students and employees alike can face obstacles in finding consistent work, regularly citing block breaks as a primary complication.

Heba Shiban ‘21 currently works at Starbucks every weekend, tutors twice a week, and has a paid internship with the Southern Colorado Health Network; this totals to at least 33 hours of work each week. Shiban began supporting her parents financially her senior year of  high school, and she is determined to continue doing so through college. 

Given how many hours a week Shiban works, she rarely has time for social or extracurricular activities. Additionally, she struggles with time management, constantly working to find a balance between her jobs, her school work, and her personal well-being. While Shiban said that she would likely face many of these obstacles at a semester school, she said the Block Plan—and block breaks in particular—present a unique challenge.

“Block breaks really bum me out,” said Shiban. “Not having block breaks accessible to do something fun … is hard.”

Since Shiban works every day of the week—and off-campus, meaning her work schedule is not aligned with CC’s academic calendar—she has spent all but one block break on campus. She said having these block breaks makes her feel more isolated and excluded as a working student than she would on the semester plan, where there are not opportunities for off-campus trips every three and a half weeks.

While Atiya Harvey ‘18 has only ever held on-campus positions, she too commented on the difficulties of working off-campus. “I personally think [the Block Plan] makes [working] harder, especially for off-campus jobs, because your schedule changes every month,” she said.

Harvey, Scot Gladstone ‘20, and Halle Schall ‘20 are resident advisors this year, and they all said they greatly appreciated the ability to schedule work block by block, given the position is on campus.

However, Gladstone holds an additional job on campus as the athletics communications Assistant, which is not nearly as flexible as his RA position. Because Gladstone covers sporting events, his work schedule is completely predetermined by the athletic schedule, meaning he occasionally has work at 11 a.m. during class if there is a game. And, like Shiban, he also expressed frustration over block breaks.

“It’s frustrating when our conference schedules games over block breaks,” said Gladstone. “I’ve either had to cut my block break short or come back early.”

Despite these inconveniences, Gladstone said he is still immensely grateful to work on campus rather than off campus. “Everyone [on-campus] is very familiar with the Block Plan,” explained Gladstone, meaning his bosses are sympathetic to his frequently-changing schedule. He went on to say he “can only imagine how difficult it would be to work off-campus,” without the understanding and support system he has on-campus.

Employees at the school are not exempt from these struggles. While all universities inevitably face obstacles surrounding winter and summer break, Austin Kumm, Assistant General Director of Bon Appétit, spoke to the issue of having breaks every month. 

“The block schedule and extended breaks are also a challenge for some new employees,” said Kumm. “And while we discuss that in interviews, the reality of extended time off every few weeks doesn’t fully register until they experience a few breaks.”

Furthermore, block breaks can make it difficult to hire people because there is such a small window within which to operate; “For us, if we don’t have someone ready to work by the end of week one in a given block, then it is tough to say, ‘Work for two and a half weeks and have a few days off,’” said Kumm.

Despite these challenges, Kumm thinks the Block Plan—and block breaks in particular—can be a huge benefit for employees.  “Doctors and dentists and other appointments don’t require missed work if you plan accordingly,” he said. “Vacations and time off and quick trips can be planned well in advance.”

However, Kumm finished with, “It takes planning, and discipline, and the stars to align that your dentist has a free appointment over block break.”

Grace Perry

Grace Perry

Grace Perry has been writing for the Catalyst since January 2018. She is a sociology major and double minor in journalism and Spanish.

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