The tip jar at the VandalStore Starbucks serves a different purpose than most. Tips there are accumulated and placed into a scholarship fund for VandalStore employees.
Keith McIver, VandalStore sales manager, said because of the federal funding the University of Idaho receives, it is not allowed to collect tips in the traditional sense.
“It”s really Vandals giving back to Vandals,” McIver said.
Students first received scholarships for spring term 2014. Three student employees who have worked at the VandalStore for at least six months receive the $100 VandalStore Book Scholarship each semester.
“Being a student and having a part-time job is a big commitment,” he said.
This semester”s recipients, Veronica Smith, Presley Stewart and Madie Brown can testify to the balancing act.
Smith, a senior psychology major, began working at the VandalStore in 2014. The Moscow native now spends most of her time in the VandalExpress in the Idaho Commons.
“It”s very fast-paced,” Smith said. “You get to know some of the regulars.”
Smith juggles working about 20 hours a week during the semester for the VandalStore with being a full-time student, as well as at least five hours at her church”s nursery.
“They are incredibly flexible with students,” Smith said of the VandalStore.
Smith said she had already paid for her textbooks when the scholarship arrived, but it helped to offset some medical bills.
“It came at the perfect time,” Smith said.
Brown, a senior nutrition major, had a history in clothing retail before starting with the VandalStore in August 2015. She said her experience has come in handy.
“They trust me and they give me the leeway to decide where to put stuff, within limits,” Brown said of clothing placement within the store.
She said she had worked retail jobs on the Palouse before, but said the VandalStore provides the best options.
“This is the job where I feel like I have the best work balance,” Brown said.
Brown said students have a lot of stressors, but the VandalStore is full of nice and funny coworkers.
“They want work to be a place where we can step away from that,” Brown said.
She said she didn”t know what the scholarship was when she received it, but she was excited nonetheless.
“It”s not everyday a $100 falls in your lap,” Brown said.
Stewart, a senior marketing major, said unlike Brown, she knew of the scholarship before she received it.
“I was excited. I had been here for a year and a half,” Stewart said. “When I got to get it this time, it was pretty cool.”
Stewart said she enjoys that the VandalStore closes early, because she has time to work on group projects after work. Like the other two scholarship recipients, she enjoys the work environment.
“I became really good friends with most of my coworkers,” Stewart said. “It”s fun to be able to work with people our age and who are going through some of the same things.”
McIver said the students bring a lot of energy to the store leading to a great working environment.
“Our employees are very special to us,” McIver said.