Q and A with USG President elect Autumn Gibbons

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Autumn Gibbons will serve as president of the Undergraduate Student Government for the 2016-2017 term

Alexa Christianson, Associate News Editor

After the announcement of an impending run-off election, its delay due to adverse weather and the final election running all day Monday, junior Autumn Gibbons has been named Undergraduate Student Government’s president, serving the 2016-17 term.

The Hullabaloo: What’s your year, major and hometown?

Autumn Gibbons: I am a junior, I am a finance and management major, and I was born and raised in Chicago, [but] the summer before Tulane, I moved to Washington, D.C. So home now is D.C., but my hometown is Chicago.

The Hullabaloo: What do you love most about Chicago?

Autumn Gibbons: I like D.C. better! I don’t know if you’ve ever moved, but what you learn is that it’s not really the place, it’s the people. I know that’s super cliché, but I don’t know, really moving to D.C. and being able to discover how much I love my parents and my siblings all over again. Everyone always asks, what do you love about Chicago? D.C. for me is more home. My friends are in Chicago, but my dog is in D.C. So home is with the dog.

The Hullabaloo: What’s been the best thing that you’ve experienced in D.C. so far?

Autumn Gibbons: It’s been really fun as a young adult to discover a new city with my parents. It makes me feel like I got to know my mom and my dad on a different level because we all moved to a city we never lived in. It was fun to do all the touristy things and then come home to a house.

The Hullabaloo: What was your reaction to winning USG president? You said it was a little surreal?

Autumn Gibbons: It was such a long process. Campaigning lasted 12 days. It was a relief…when polls closed, I immediately was like, it’s out of my control, I put my heart and soul into this campaign [and] there’s nothing I regret…regardless of the outcome. When I got the results, I just thought back to my first Senate meeting where I was watching Morgan Wittenberg, who was president, and thinking that it never even occurred to me that I would ever want to be on the executive board. Looking back at the Autumn I was then, it’s so weird. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The Hullabaloo: What would you say has changed with the Autumn you were then and the Autumn you are now?

Autumn Gibbons: I’m now way more accepting of my strengths and my weaknesses. When you’re a freshman, you kind of think you’re good at everything. Then you get older and you realize you do have a lot of strengths, but you also have a lot of weaknesses. Through all the jobs I’ve held at Tulane, I’ve learned that if you surround yourself with people that challenge you, you inherently get better. I think the Autumn I am now has been challenged, and I don’t just mean academically, or socially, I mean sitting in conversations with my exec board where we all have different perspectives and we’re all fighting but we have to come to one outcome. That’s something you really only learn through experience. I think the Autumn I am now is more of a listener, and someone who is more willing to facilitate a conversation instead of lead it.

The Hullabaloo: When did you decide to run? What was your motivation for making that decision?

Autumn Gibbons: That’s the big question. I got VPF this time last year, and VPF was my goal. I was like ‘I want VPF,’ and I got it, and I started doing it, and I saw all of these things with the student government that I wanted to fix, but they were out of my realm. I officially decided I was running over winter break after a very extensive conversation with my parents. I think that I really decided I wanted to run when budget season started because that’s when all the organizations submit a budget. I remember thinking to myself, ‘this is really tough,’ but I loved it, and I loved being consumed by the student government. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. I was thinking ‘what am I going to do next?’ I couldn’t imagine not being president.

The Hullabaloo: What would you say was the most challenging part of campaigning?

Autumn Gibbons: The most challenging part for me was watching people make informed decisions that weren’t in my favor…I don’t think you really understand until you do it, what it really means to put yourself out there. I had a lot of my friends, people I didn’t even know…I’m so happy they educated themselves and picked someone, but every single time I saw someone not sway towards me, it really caused a lot of self-doubt. It was really hard for me to be honest with people and see reactions that weren’t necessarily what I wanted. It challenged me, as I said; I think it’s so important to be challenged, and I think this campaign challenged my morals and all my dedications because it really sucked when I saw some of my friends make informed decisions and not go with me. The hardest part was the self-doubt. Walking into any room, I was never sure that the outcome was going to be in my favor. I spoke to probably 50 organizations and every single sorority that I could, and all of that combined, walking into the room and every single time knowing that people could be like, ‘I didn’t like her,’ is really tough.

The Hullabaloo: Maybe this is premature, but what are some of the first steps that you’re taking as president?

Autumn Gibbons: Oh, I’ve already started! The first thing I’m doing right now is setting up the descriptions for the cabinet and blasting the application out. The first thing I want to do is make my cabinet so representative of the student body, a bunch of different voices, a bunch of different perspectives. I really fundamentally believe that if people don’t look, act, dress, speak, love in the same way that I’ll do, I’ll be challenged, so I want a really, really challenging cabinet.

The Hullabaloo: What else have you been involved in on campus, and how have these experiences been valuable to you, either personally or socially or in any way?

Autumn Gibbons: I did Hullabaloo my freshman year, I was assistant news editor, that just was challenging. That was the first thing I ever did here that really I knew what it meant to have obligations. Not just like school, like ‘oh, you have a paper due,’ but to have a whole crew of people trying to make one production, and your part really does matter. I remember I used to be so upset when my comma wasn’t there, something stupid, and looking back, it wasn’t stupid. It made me a detail-oriented person.

Spring of my freshman year I interned for the office of James Carville. There are no words to describe what he taught me. I used to think that I wanted to grow up and be successful, or I wanted to be well-known, and he totally took that out of the picture. What I want now is to be respected. He is arguably one of the most respected men in the country, and to watch him work made me realize that no matter what field I go into, I want to be respected.

I was president of Women in Business my sophomore year. We used to make jokes I would bleed WIB. The biggest thing I think I’m proud of in WIB is I took a community of women and told them that this is a group where we support each other. Instead of being a group that was super focused on attendance or who participates in meetings and all of that, I took all of that away and just said, ‘come because you want to be here.’ I think that facilitated a group of students that were dedicated to the organization instead of just having it as a resume line item. I’m the biggest women-supporting-women advocate ever, and I think that when you’re surrounded by people who just get it, whether you’re born a woman or identify as a woman, you get it by being a girl. That was my favorite thing ever.

VPF was, before this, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I feel like finance is so touchy because everyone is affected by it, and everyone has an opinion. Whenever someone was concerned about the way finance was done, I always had to take a step back and remember that no one is as educated about finance right now as I am so I can’t get mad at anyone when they get mad. I had so many meetings here where students came in and they were so upset. I had to remember, ‘they’re so right.’ They’re allowed to complain. They’re allowed to think this is horrible. What I have to remember is that there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes with finance, you can’t blame someone just for being upset with the front. What you’re presented with in finance is never the story. This year challenged me to think outside the box because a lot of organizations are underfunded. I had to think how to get them money that’s not through USG and it really challenged me that way. I think this year made me more realizing of the difference between the types of students on this campus because I had to meet with every single organization, so I got to see every different type of student that’s involved in an organization and it just made me fall in love with the student body, and we’re so diverse and I feel like it’s not really seen that way. So that’s also why I wanted to be president, to show that there are so many different voices this year and they all are so important.

The Hullabaloo: What are your thoughts about multicultural issues on campus?

Autumn Gibbons: I’m definitely going to work closely with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and I’m definitely going to work closely with the MCC chair of USG, but as of right now, my focus is to not tokenize. I feel like a lot of the times when someone from a multicultural org comes and sits on USG, they feel like they’re just only there because they represent the MCC. I want my cabinet to be diverse and I want my cabinet to representative of the O, of USG, of the student body, of all these different things. I can’t speak for [multicultural organizations]; I have no idea what they’re going through. All I know is that I can provide a space where they will be heard. I will work very hard to make sure they feel welcomed and not just them, but anyone. A theater department student. I’m not theater, so I want theater around. I’m not athletic, so I want an athletic person around me. It’s all different types of voices that I think need to be heard. I think regarding multicultural orgs…if USG is seen as a bit more friendly, I think anyone from a multicultural org will feel more welcome to come sit at the table, and I will promise to always be someone friendly. I will take four steps forward to help make sure that USG is diverse, but they need to step up too, so we’re going to meet halfway and I think that’s going to be great.

The Hullabaloo: What has been the role of family and friends in this whole process?

Autumn Gibbons: I would hate to be living with me during the campaign. I feel so bad for my housemates. I’m really close to my parents, and really close to my sisters and brother and so I needed a daily phone call from my mom to remind me that it’s not the end of the world. It would be great if I was president but it’s not the end of the world. And my friends, they got mad at me because I literally left the house at 7 a.m. every morning and didn’t come back until 11 because I just wanted to be on campus all day. Friends were really not existent because I was not existent. I always lean on my family and my friends but throughout this campaign, it was really more me leaning on myself, and being able to come home and be distracted by my friends, and distracted by my family. I tried to not talk about it with my friends, to give them a peace of mind. I was trying really hard to not be super obsessive about it. I was really alone.

The Hullabaloo: What do you like to do in your free time?

Autumn Gibbons: I could be embarrassing and say that I like to play Sudoku on my phone obsessively, but I don’t know if that makes me sound cool! I always wake up and go to Reily. I love waking up and listening to my music. I’m currently watching Mad Men on Netflix. I FaceTime my dogis that weird? Also, I don’t have free time! It’s budget season, [and] that makes me sound lame, but finance committee is meeting for 12 hours every week and I have to chairI just don’t have time.

The Hullabaloo: How about your favorite foods?

Autumn Gibbons: I love quinoa, that’s my favorite thing right now. My roommate and I, we always make quinoa bowls. I love sausage; I make sausage almost every night for dinner. I really like Green Goddess dressing. It’s a type of dressing for salads. I’m obsessed with it…and grapefruit. Grapefruit till I die! And coffee. Coffee and grapefruit. Every morning, if I woke up to coffee and grapefruit, I would be happy. Grapefruit is really good in the morning. I like iced coffee so much better than hot coffee, but in the winter I hate drinking iced coffee, so right now I’m a little unhappy. It’s getting to be iced coffee weather, though.

The Hullabaloo: What would your dream job be?

Autumn Gibbons: I have two. There’s two Autumns. There’s the Autumn that’s really ambitious with student government and really into politics, and really into business and finance, and then there’s the Autumn that’s really funny and wants to be like Amy Schumer. I always wanted to be on “Saturday Night Live.” I think I’m really funny, but I’m not that funny, but my dream job would be to be on “SNL,” or to be someone in business, maybe like a big marketing or advertising firm, be like the CEO. I can’t ever see myselfobviously I’m going to have to go into an entry-level job and work my way up. That’s what I did in student government. I can’t see myself not working my way up. I guess I don’t know what job I want, but I’m excited to work the chain. I love starting as the newbie, the rookie, learning the ropes, and then I love training the new people because you’re a year into it. I love going up for the big guns and that’s just what I live for.

The Hullabaloo: What are some of your favorite things about New Orleans?

Autumn Gibbons: I love swamp tours. My brother is visiting, and I’m taking him on a swamp tour. My favorite thing to do is to walk from the city to the WWII museum because it’s like Julia Streetthe art district, it’s so beautiful. I love the streetcar. I love City Park. My favorite thing in New Orleans is that there’s always things on the ground that I like to take photos of. In New Orleans, there was this amazing drawing on the ground of fish, and I took a photo of my feet by the fish. When you’re looking down, you’re always seeing something beautiful. Even the water meter is so pretty. I found one that was decorated in Mardi Gras colors and it was so beautiful. I always look down when I’m walking. Right by my house, there’s in cursive, ‘love’ on the sidewalk. It’s just the little things and all the colored houses and things like that.

The Hullabaloo: What has been your whole takeaway from the election process?

Autumn Gibbons: You need to push yourself as hard as you can push so that no matter what the outcome is, you’re happy with yourself. If I had not pushed myself, I might have seen a loss as ‘oh, I could have done more if I had pushed myself.’ It’s never not worth it to work hard. Working hard will always pay off. It’s a really great feeling to think that once something is out of your control, there’s nothing better than to think that I did everything I could to control it. That’s how I felt walking away from the elections. I also learned that when push comes to shove, I’m a fighter. The fact that it dragged on for so long and I wouldn’t stop campaigning shows that I really wanted it, and when I really want something, whether I get it or not, I’m going to work my butt off to make sure that I put all my cards on the table.

The Hullabaloo: Anything else to add?

Autumn Gibbons: I’m excited to spend my last year making Tulane what it should be for the incoming freshmen. I think that every time I do something, I’m not thinking about me or my grade level, because we’re already here, we’re already established, but I’m really going to work towards making the future Tulaniansthe people that don’t even know they’re applying here, the sophomores sitting in geography class right nowI want to make Tulane great for them. I think that’s what will drive me more than anything.