WaveCrush Wednesday: Autumn Gibbons

Autumn Gibbons

How did you first get involved in USG?

I went to the fall activities expo, first semester my freshman year, and I was walking around and you know when you put your name down for everything, you just sign up for all these different things? I actually never did student government ever, and I walked by the table and Morgan Whitenberg was standing there, she was president at the time, and she was talking about how if you want to get into student government there were 5 spots open for freshmen and so I started talking to her about it and she was saying how you had to run a campaign, a school-wide campaign, and people have to vote for you. And that seems really hard, and I was like, ‘I kinda want to do it’ and so I called my mom and I was like ‘I’m gonna do it’ and the first thing my mom said was ‘Ok well if you don’t win, it’s ok’. She prepped me for a loss and I kinda took that as such a light to my flame, I was like ‘no now I have to win’ and so 27 people ran and 5 were selected and that’s how I got on it. I stood up in front of all my classes and I said quote-on-quote ‘you don’t care about me, I’m a freshman but it takes 4 seconds to vote for me and it will change my life’ and I handed out candy, and that’s how I got on student government. That’s how I did it. It’s not a really complicated story it’s just, yeah.

Pretty straightforward, yeah. So that’s how you got involved. At what point did you feel like “wow yeah this is what I want to do, this is my organization?”

I was involved in a lot of things my freshmen year, arguably like, the most involved. Even though I’m president now, I was more busy my freshmen year. I just went to the senate meetings and I saw the power of being a strong speaker and what it means to have students see you as a problem solver and I just ran with it. I loved the feeling that I could better Tulane for future generations. It’s kinda just what I wanted to do, and the best way to do that is to join student government.

Who would you say has had the most influence on you, either just in general or specifically to do with USG?

So I think that the largest influencer on me personally is Ryan Poche. He was a year older than me and, funny story, so he has now graduated and is at UVA law school. So when I got on student government the first time, I obviously went and facebook stalked everyone that was on USG, and I saw this guy named Ryan and I was like ‘oh my god hes so cute, I have to meet him’ and so when I went to the first meeting, I went up and introduced myself. It was just like he was so beautiful and that is s cliché but I was like, this guy is so awesome, hes from Erath, Louisiana and he had this thick accent and it was my first experience with someone from the deep south and he sits next to me at the meeting and we sat next to each other and he’s on finance committee and he was talking to me about finance so I joined the finance committee, and he over winter break, I don’t know he saw something in me, and over winter break he worked at the office of James Carville, and he said ‘theres an opening, do you want an internship?’ so he got me an internship at the office of James Carville my freshman year. And that’s how I became a leader. Because I watched Poche, I watched James, and I think the thing that Poche taught me is the difference between being successful and being respected. He taught me that its way more important to walk into a room and be the most respected vs the most successful, and it changed my life. That’s my Tulane person and my USG person. And in the real world, Ellen Malcolm. She founded Emily’s List and she worked in the political field when no women worked there and she found a need and she solved it. She founded an organization that I worked for, I was an intern there last summer, and its where I hope to work in May, and I just have so much respect for people who problem solve, so Ellen Malcolm.

What have you found has been your most rewarding experience at Tulane, if you can narrow it down to one.

My intial would be the relationship I created with the Office of Student Affairs. Within the OSA theres a woman by the name of Jane Rushing, and she is my mother here at Tulane. If I hadn’t answered Poche for the other one, I would have answered Jane. I think that the most rewarding thing that I got is that as I moved up on USG and even as a freshmen, that there are members of the Tulane community that looked at me, talked to me, and respected me as an actual person in politics vs a student. They respected my opinion and I think what Jane did for me is she taught me the importance of leaving a mark and the importance of doing things for future generations vs for now. A lot of the work we do in Student Government is for the Sophomore in high school now who doesn’t know they are coming here, but they are coming here and we want to make their experience better. So that would be the most rewarding.

So leaving a legacy?

Leaving a legacy and just the relationships I was able to form with faculty and staff. I am so so lucky that through my leadership positions I have been able to do that. I will always be grateful for the people on this campus that saw me for more than just a student.

What has been your favorite class that you’ve taken?

I’m in Carville’s course, and I don’t want to say its my favorite cause I am in it right now so I don’t know yet. I took an ethics course that really put things in perspective that I really liked.

@autumnforrest

Anything you would like to add to that?

Another rewarding! One of the most rewarding things, I get about 7 emails a week from freshmen who just want to meet with me and figure out how to get involved, and I think the most rewarding thing is knowing that my story can help others on this campus build themselves and I think that’s incredible. I remember when I did that and I was so wide-eyed and in awe at Morgan, I was just like “how did you do this, how did you get here” and everything she said to me just made me want it more. And also, especially right now, I think a lot of people are going through the sorority experience and as someone who didn’t have a sorority, I’ve gotten 16-17 emails of freshmen who have been like ‘I didn’t end up doing greek, it’s ruining my life, I’m so upset’ and I remember what it’s like to think I was not picked, I was not chosen, and thinking that theres a fault in you. I think that being able to show that you don’t need anything except yourself and your voice, you can be successful here at Tulane is arguably the best thing about being president. Even today I got coffee with a girl who started crying bc she didn’t get the sorority she wanted and I was like ‘you are fine, it’s ok. I didn’t get any sorority and I got the entire student body to vote for me to be their president, you will be ok’ so I think helping freshmen navigate the hardships of being a freshmen is really really rewarding. I have never said no to a freshmen for a coffee. I have to do decaf.