Meet Gabe, an economics major with a minor in Public Policy who loves his job working with first-year students as a Resident Advisor in the Freshman Hall.
Where are you from?
Shucks. I am from Snellville Georgia by way of Gridley, Kansas.
What was your high school like?
My high school had a lot of students from middle and upper class lifestyles. They took themselves very seriously. It was a classic southern suburb high school. “We love football, we love tradition!”
Describe yourself in high school.
In high school I was really goofy. I bought 90% of my clothes from local thrift stores and I wore a lot of shirts with animals on them. All I wanted to do was be a movie score composer and punk rock drummer, so I spent most of my time split between those two outlets.
Why did you pick GSU?
I picked GSU because I felt like all the other universities in Georgia were a square hole and I was a round peg. I felt like GSU was kind of like a round hole, and I liked the urban campus. Atlanta seemed like an exciting place to be. Also, the school had programs that I knew I was going be interested in. One was the Jazz Performance major, the only one in the state of Georgia at the time that I applied. Going through that program was my goal, at the time.
Why did you pick your major?
During my first two years of college I grew a lot and changed a lot. My perspectives changed. The scope of my abilities began to broaden and I realized that although I could pursue something musical, I had other interests that I would also enjoy pursuing. Music is still something that I love to spend free time doing, but I just wanted to learn in new ways and expand my thinking.
I’m a very analytical person and I like to step back and look at the big picture. I don’t like to draw conclusions from one instance. I like to examine things in a series or patterns, and economics allows me to utilize that. Also, as a child I was very interested in what the New York Stock Exchange was, what the lit up words rolling across the screen meant, and why the guys were waving papers around. If there are a bunch of adults wearing suits running around screaming at each other, there must be something going on there.
Do you want to be one of those guys?
No. Now that I’ve learned about what they do that’s not the life I want to live.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend a lot of free time playing with my band. We are an indie rock and surf pop group. All members of the band are undergraduate members here at GSU, and people I met while through school.
Why did you decide to become an RA?
I wanted to leave my mark on Georgia State. I specifically wanted to work with freshmen because I remember all the confusion that I experienced during my freshman year of college and I felt that I might have something to give back, maybe help students as they work through the challenges of that first year of college.
What was the RA application process like?
It was the most rigorous application process I’ve had to this point. It was a 4-step process that included multiple recommendation letters, a personal interview, a group interview with other RA applicants, and it culminated with a 15-minute presentation which I creatively handcrafted.
What do you think made your application stand out?
In the first couple of interviews, I think my positive attitude, my smile, and my confidence in general… I think that confidence goes a long way when you go into those interviews. I think it’s important to understand your story. Understand where you’ve been and what you’ve gone through so you can understand your strengths as a person and the person that you’ve grown to be.
What makes you a good RA?
I’m not an RA because of the perks. I’m an RA because of the students. I genuinely care about the well-being of the students and I work my best to let them know that.
What is one personality trait that is essential to be a good RA?
Flexibility is important. You have to be willing to roll with the punches, handle curveballs as the present themselves, and ride the waves of change. You have to be patient like Grandfather Time, but willing to jump like a hyena.
So being flexible and calm in different situations is required?
Well, I’ve encountered multiple situations since becoming an RA that I was not trained for. Things have happened that I never had a protocol for. On the fly, I just had to be able to listen and take the knowledge I had gained and apply it to the situation.
What happens to the RAs who can’t roll with the punches?
They get overly stressed out, and the job begins to erode their determination, I guess.
What is the most important part of your job?
I would say for me and for all of freshman hall, programming is essential. Programming is planning activities and events for the students that live in the residence halls. These activities are social, they’re educational, and they give students an opportunity to meet other students and hopefully begin conversations about relationships, drugs, sexuality, education, and many other topics that are specifically relevant to college life.
When is your job most stressful?
My job is most stressful when I get those 2 a.m. calls from someone telling me that there’s an incident that I have to respond to. Sometimes it’s just a noise complaint or a power outage. Sometimes it’s a lot more serious. It’s especially stressful when I have class at 8 a.m.
What is the most rewarding part?
When a resident has problems with a roommate and I find out that they sat down together and that they’ve worked through their conflict.
How has being an RA affected you personally?
Being an RA has given me a new appreciation for the value of living on campus and it’s also made me more aware of the needs and struggles of the student body, most specifically freshmen.
Who would you recommend this job to?
I would recommend this job to anyone with a passion to leave a mark at Georgia State and anyone who wants to serve others.
Who would you not recommend this job to?
I would not recommend this job to people who are self-important and who only want to know what they can get out of the position.
What is a fatal flaw of RA applications?
I would say that you can’t do this if you have a bland personality. This job is intense. And it can be stressful. I personally believe that the best RAs are the ones that are slightly crazy.