Human resource employees too busy to answer questions all day, associate vice chancellor says.
By Cynthia M. Herrera
The first student trustee, Jacob Wong, has been hired in a temporary, full-time position by the human resources department at Alamo Colleges.
Wong, who graduated in May with an associate of arts degree in psychology from this college, started working as a temporary employment specialist in mid-July for $16.31 per hour, which would equate to an annual salary of $33,924.
Wong could work for six months or until the rest of the fiscal year, Linda Boyer-Owens, associate vice chancellor of human resources, said in a phone interview.
Wong served as a nonvoting member of the Alamo Colleges elected board of trustees in 2014-15. He was chosen from student nominees from each of the colleges. He also is a former president of this college’s Student Government Association.
The Texas Education Code Section 130. 089, states a public junior college may not employ or contract with individuals who were members of the board of trustees at the college before a year of their term or resignation as a trustee.
Ross Laughead, Alamo Colleges general counsel, said in a phone interview that student trustees do not fall under the Texas Education Code for trustees because they are not voted into office by the public. “There is no actual provision in the law governing community colleges that allows there to be a full-blown student trustee or defines the role,” Ross said. “This provision in the education code relates to the trustees that are actually created by statute. Our student trustee is essentially an advisory position that we call a student trustee to give a dignity but we’ve had to define it narrowly in certain ways because otherwise (they’re) not elected by a single member district therefore can’t be a real trustee.”
According to the board policy for student trustee B. 11.1, student trustees are to be held to the same standards of performances, behavior and accountability of an elected trustee.
“By creating a policy, we didn’t intend to pull in every statutory requirement,” he said. “In fact, if we had, we would have pulled in every statutory requirement, we would have basically created the position and destroyed it because the statute says you have to be elected by the public form your district, and, of course, that’s not the case at all for how we select the student trustee for their advisory input.”
Wong works in the employment office processing new hires for part-time employment, he said in an interview Sept. 8 after committee meetings of the board of trustees.
The position calls for a minimum education and experience of a bachelor’s degree or a combination of relevant experience and education equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
“My equivalent is, I started work when I was 15 years old and three months into that position I became a staff supervisor,” Wong said. “That was when I was 15 and every job I have ever held-since, and I am 36-I have been a manager. And so I am very familiar with that kind of decorum, the necessary skill set to be in that work setting.”
Wong said he decided to look for a job within the Alamo Colleges after a conversation he had about his jobs at the time.
“While I was serving on the board, I became very passionate about what we did here and I just want to follow that up. It doesn’t matter where I’m at,” he said. “I’m in a back office, you know, sitting in a desk, and the only people I meet are the people that come through and I process and I get to meet them one-on-one.”
He said his degree and field of study help in human resources.
Wong said he originally entered this college in 2009 to study human resources. “I was allowed to take a psychology course my first or second semester, and I loved it so much that I jumped right out of HR and went full psychology,” Wong said.
The most enjoyable part of Wong’s job is meeting students who graduated from the Alamo Colleges and come back wanting a job, he said.
“They’re coming back and getting employed. I didn’t realize how many there were. There’s a lot,” Wong said.
Wong said when he was interviewed for the position, he discussed continuing his education.
“It was very understood by people, when I was interviewed, that I would continue to pursue my education and not just stop here,” Wong said. “So that flexibility is there. That I can go part-time if I need to, to actually pursue college.”
Wong applied to Texas A&M University-San Antonio in the spring and was accepted. However, after starting his job, Wong notified the university that he would like to attend the university in the spring.
“One of the reasons I didn’t start school immediately like I planned was because this was a full-time position,” he said. “I was just starting it, and I didn’t just also want to start at the university and get too overwhelmed. I wanted a chance to be able to learn what I need to do in my position here and then slowly add in going to school on top of it.”
Wong said he knows what campuses need, such as tutors, and he is trying to hire employees. “I know that what I am doing is doing something that eventually affects and improves the students’ ability in the college.”
He said he would like to stay with the Alamo Colleges as he progresses. “What better way to go to school but to also work in an educational setting because they understand your needs as a student,” Wong said. “I like what we do because it supports students. It helped me get where I’m at and now I’m helping it in return.
Before being able to speak with Wong on Tuesday, The Ranger was instructed by Boyer-Owens to address any questions concerning Wong to her. She said Wong did not want to speak with The Ranger or be involved in discussing his position.
She would not provide his work phone number because she said she did not want him to be interrupted during work.
“I’m his boss, this is my department and I’ve sort of said before I don’t want The Ranger calling employees all over HR because we’re busy. So I ask that questions come through my office,” she said. “Our employees are busy, and they can’t stop all day long to answer questions.”
However, Boyer-Owens later said she did not instruct her employees not to speak to The Ranger.