For his on-campus job, psychology major Alex Bourdeau had only 15 hours a week to collect and organize research data for the Research Design Studio in Teachers College.

Yet his supervisors say the amount of work the recent graduate completed in that time was on par with the efforts of graduate students.

“Alex is a tremendously motivated problem-solver,” said Jerrell Cassady, a professor of educational psychology who was Bourdeau’s supervisor. “His dedication to the work made him a real asset for us.”

People outside of the college are learning about Bourdeau’s on-the-job dedication thanks to his recent recognition as Student Employee of the Year not just for Ball State, but the nation.

Student stands with three award plaques next to Student Government President.

Bourdeau poses with 2016-17 Student Government Association President James Wells during Ball State’s National Student Employment Week Awards Ceremony. Bourdeau is holding his university, regional and national awards. (Photo courtesy of Career Center)

“I’d never been nominated for anything, so it was exciting to hear my name called,” said Bourdeau, who learned of his award during an April 14 awards reception that was the culmination of the Career Center’s celebration of National Student Employment Week.

“At first, while they were describing the job duties of the person who won, it was general information. But as soon as I heard mention of the Smithsonian Museum, I knew it was me. It was a cool feeling. I didn’t expect to win.”

Bourdeau’s research for Ball State has included creating program evaluations for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of the American Indian. This means his work is shaping operational procedures of institutions outside of the university.

“When I give Alex a task, it’s usually with no more than a vague explanation,” Cassady said. “What I love is he’ll work on a problem until he can report back with a possible solution.”

Christopher Thomas, a doctoral student who mentored Bourdeau, added, “Early on, Alex was reluctant to share his ideas. Over time, he became more confident in his knowledge and abilities, making suggestions that had a substantive impact on the projects he was working on.”

It was that kind of confidence and initiative that made Bourdeau stand out to the National Student Employment Association, the non-profit organization that recognized him with its most prestigious honor.

The award came with a cash prize of $1,000, and Bourdeau knows how he is going to spend his hard-earned money.

“I like playing guitar, and I’ve been wanting to get an electric. So I really want to get a Fender Telecaster, which I definitely can afford now.”

After commencement, Bourdeau said he would like to attend graduate school, with future aspirations of working in higher education.

“Every university has an institutional effectiveness office, and what they do is very similar to the work I’ve been doing for these Smithsonian museums. I want to get my master’s in quantitative psychology and a certificate in institutional effectiveness, so that I can continue this type of work I’ve come to love.”

For Bourdeau, research has become his passion.

“When you love what you do, it’s so much different than being forced to do something. You actually want to do more. I love helping people this way.”