Some Oxford students must balance school and work

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Morgan McClellion making a drink at Cups. Photo by Wade Johnson.

Wade Johnson
Oxford Stories

While many college students view having a job as a way to spend their free times, others believe they are an economic necessity for living and attending college in Oxford.

Morgan McClellion is a sophomore nursing major and an employee at Cups, an Espresso Cafe. McClellion has been working at Cups for over a year and a half.

“I’m originally from Washington state where coffee is a huge part of the culture,” she said. “There’s a lot of things about Cups that remind me of my home state.”

McClellion enjoys creating latte art and chatting with regulars. She works most weekly shifts morning and night when the shop becomes packed with students studying.

She originally applied for the Cups job to earn extra spending money because she did not want to financially depend on her parents for everything.

As a freshman, McClellion had most of her living expenses paid for by the university. When she became a sophomore, she became more dependent on her job because she began paying rent and for food. Her money is spent first for rent. The rest is put into a savings account that she may have to dip into when she moves to Jackson for nursing school next year.

“It’s easier being a barista than other jobs in terms of tips,” she said, “because being a barista is a lot of fun, and it gives you the chance to meet some pretty cool people. The tips definitely help me get by. I couldn’t imagine working a job where I didn’t receive tips.”

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A cup of Cups coffee. Photo by Wade Johnson.

The tips enable McClellion to go out and have fun without wasting her rent and food money. On average, she earns $30 in tips every shift. This fluctuates depending on the season. Winter is best for tips, particularly around finals.

Cups has also offered McClellion a sense of family and community. She met one her best friends working at Cups, Caroline Abide.

“I like to call her [Abide] my part-time co-worker and full-time friend,” she said.

Abide’s boyfriend, Pace Ward, also maintains a job while attending college.

“It’s admirable really,” said Abide. “In a way, they grow up quicker than a lot of students at Ole Miss, but it also makes them more appreciative for when we do go out. It makes me more conscience of my spending as well.”

Pace Ward works at Square Books. The money he earns helps pay for rent, food and other necessities. Ward got the job at Square Books because of good-timing and knowledge. He said working at Square Books is not easy. There is a process of tests and expectations employees must meet.

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Pace Ward studying. Photo by Wade Johnson.

“You definitely have to know all the big names for a region like ours: Faulkner, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Grisham,” Ward said. “But also, if you apply when we’re just not hiring, it doesn’t matter how much you know. If we’re full, we’re full. At least that’s how I perceive it.”

Ward has been with Square Books for more than a year, and he has also become a familiar townie. He said most Oxford locals who work on the Square are working students, but he believes most students at Ole Miss aren’t required to have jobs.

“I definitely feel a little separated simply because I can’t go out as much,” he said. “There will be some weeks where there’s like two shows at Proud Larry’s and a big group of friends going out Saturday to The Neon Pig or something, and I’ll have to pick and choose which night I can go out. Also, I recently had to go inactive at my fraternity so I can save that money for rent.”

Both McClellion and Ward still manage to maintain above a 3.0 GPA average. They say being a working student creates a built-in time chart, and it is easier to schedule study time. They can also both be found occasionally studying behind the counters of Cups and Square Books if the stores are running slow.

McClellion will be leaving for Jackson next semester to fulfill her nursing degree. Because Cups is a Mississippi franchise, she will be able to get a job at another Cups again if she wishes. This creates a sense of stability and puts the transition at ease. She must pay her way in Jackson as well.


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