Formula for success

Student worker Cullen Zimmer just wanted a job...

By Allison Campbell-Jensen

Cullen Zimmer
Cullen Zimmer

What’s the probability of a student worker learning more than he expected in the Libraries? In Cullen Zimmer’s case, it’s high.

In his freshman year, Zimmer started looking around for jobs on the West Bank, where most of his classes were located. Opportunities at Wilson Library caught his eye mainly because he believed he would have time to do homework. His supervisor, Jackie Gulbranson of Access & Information Services, was impressed by his upbeat, can-do attitude. “We could rely on him to handle the many, many tasks that we asked him to do,” she says.

Unexpected benefits

Originally from Rochester, Minnesota, Zimmer graduates in fall 2020 with a double major in mathematics, with an actuarial specialization, and statistics. Adding to his aptitude for figures and formulas, Zimmer’s work at Wilson Library helped him develop soft skills. Those include “being able to talk with customers and problem-solve what they need,” he says, “and trying to work out their issues.”

“Being a library staff member teaches students the skills necessary to succeed in their future careers.”

—Cullen Zimmer

As a lead worker, Zimmer has developed his leadership and teaching skills, too.

“Cullen was really attentive and supportive of his fellow student workers,” Gulbranson says. “His positive energy helped make them feel more comfortable in our community.”

Zimmer enjoyed building relationships with his co-workers and patrons — particularly Chuck. A friendly older man taking classes at the University, Chuck would shoot the breeze with him. When Zimmer was studying for his actuarial exam, Chuck said, “You need to study instead of talking to me.” They would talk about sports — Zimmer is a fan of Gopher football, basketball, and hockey — and whether Zimmer’s team won or lost, Chuck would say that team stunk.

Prior to COVID, Zimmer would put together puzzles with his co-workers while on break or take part in big group conversations. “Sometimes full-time staff or students would bring in food for everyone to share,” he says. “I’ve definitely missed that.” With the staff pared down to just a few people, however, Zimmer can get to know co-workers on a personal basis. And, if he needs help, he can get it quickly via email.

Outside and inside the Libraries

Zimmer is a triplet and on weekends, he’ll often hang out with his brother and sister, who also are at the U, or with the friends he lives with. He attends church virtually. And he participates in the Actuary Club, which met weekly at the beginning of the semester, when they heard recruitment pitches from companies. They now gather every other week to socialize and play games online.

“Cullen was really attentive and supportive of his fellow student workers. His positive energy helped make them feel more comfortable in our community.”

—Jackie Gulbranson

One of those recruitment pitches must have clicked because Zimmer already has been hired as an actuarial analyst by a large firm based in San Antonio. He hears it’s a fun town and he has never been to Texas. After working remotely to start, he’s looking forward to moving there.

His Libraries training may have helped. “No matter what job someone goes into,” he says, “being a library staff member teaches students the skills necessary to succeed in their future careers.” He’s sad to leave a vibrant and caring community.

During the interview, Zimmer was sitting in a study room in Wilson. “I suggest that students should use them. I can always find one available,” he says. “More people should be taking advantage of them.” Mindful of COVID, he adds: “As long as they clean their area.”

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