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Q: Who has changed your life?
A: During alternative spring break in Atlanta, one of the things we wanted to do was explore the area, so we visited the assistant to one of the city councilmen, whose name was Kwanza. He said he’d give us a tour of the Old Fourth Ward—statistically one of the poorest and roughest locations on the planet.
We were on a walking tour so some people were rather nervous about it. I wasn’t very concerned because we had the assistance of the councilman. He brought us to this really old house and said, “This is where Mrs. Thompson lives.” Mrs. Thompson suddenly burst onto the porch and was so warm and open to us.
As it turns out, she had lived in the same house in that part of the city for over 60 years. She mentioned that she has watched that part of the city transform, especially in the past five years since Kwanza took office.
Kwanza came from a very small background and wasn’t very well connected, but he was making such a huge difference in the community. It was really great to see that you can come from nothing and achieve something really great.
My background isn’t really well connected or wealthy, so it’s nice to see that great things are possible even from the most meager backgrounds. Those two helped to change our group’s life.
Q: Have you changed someone else’s life?
A: A 2-year-old girl on the Atlanta trip—I taught her colors. I know, it seems so small but it was probably one of the coolest things I had ever done. Slowly she started to grasp: “This is a red one…this is a blue one.”
I think that’s some of the best things in life—the small things. I know that sped up her learning process. It was a wonderful experience working with kids. Before this, I didn’t really like kids. But after, I felt like I could work with children. If I had to change careers, I think that I could do education.
Also, we did a lot of community clean-up work in the Atlanta metro. People would drive by, roll down their windows and thank us because no one had ever done anything like that before. Community service didn’t exist in that part and it was huge news that we were down there and doing work for them. They were so thankful.
It was kind of weird because if you do Adopt a Highway here in Pittsburgh, people just fly by you without a second look, but down there it was the biggest deal.
Another girl, Kelly, went on the trip to have a good time and do community service, but she made such a big transition on the trip that she cried 2-3 nights.
One thing we did was a reflection period, where we would just talk about our day and what we’ve learned about ourselves. She changed so much on the trip. She talked about how she used to judge people and during the trip she had an epiphany that she doesn’t want to judge people anymore because you never know their /stories. That inspired me to do the same.
Q: How did you find out about RMU?
A: Funny Story. I was dropping my brother off at the Art Institute downtown and I passed a sign that said Robert Morris University on it. So I went online and decided to get to know more about the university (as I had never heard of it before).
I applied, was accepted, and never even visited campus before the first day I arrived for freshman weekend. I literally applied to Robert Morris on a whim. It was the best whim I have ever had!
Q: What do you like best about the Marketing program?
A: The think I really like most about my program is that everything is so professionally focused from day one. The second you start to learn theory you begin to apply it to the real world. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you can’t apply it than there is no use in learning anything.
Q: How helpful are the faculty members?
A: The faculty at Robert Morris is exceptional. It sounds so terribly cliché, but they truly do care about your progress. I have /conversations with faculty about the craziest of topics—ranging from our study abroad experiences to talking about vampire lore. The faculty at Robert Morris goes far beyond the classroom to make sure that you succeed emotionally and professionally. They always go the extra mile.
Q: What would you like to do with your career?
A: Well, I’m not definitely sure. But what I can tell you is that I have a lot of options thanks to Robert Morris. I am weighing a couple of opportunities after graduation.
I am considering moving to Ireland for a year to work and continue to grow my international experiences. I am considering joining either AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. I am also considering going to graduate school.
Overall, I just want to help people. It has been my lifetime goal to increase the quality of life of others. Whether it is directly or indirectly I want to make a real difference and with a Robert Morris education I feel like I can.
Q: Why would you recommend Robert Morris to other students?
A: Robert Morris will change your life. This school is special for so many reasons. We really do offer a unique college experience. Also, it is wonderful to be able to grow with a university. Robert Morris is changing and growing and it is extremely rewarding to grow with your university. I feel like I am a part of something here and you can be too.
Q: What do you think is RMU’s best aspect?
A: Definitely the people. Robert Morris is home to some of the most wonderful people on the entire planet. I mean come on—we have a singing groundskeeper! Where else are you going to find something like that?
The university has really assembled a talented, professional and innovative staff to take this university forward and they are doing so in great stride. From our president to every last maintenance person we are all colonials and we care about Robert Morris.
After graduating in May 2011, John worked as a site administrator for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth Summer Program. As a senior resident advisor, he supervised a staff of 12 ethnically, culturally, socio-economically, and personally diverse students and professionals who served as resident assistants at the summer camp.
"This experience allowed me to not only get to work with truly gifted and talented students but also to discover ways in which to bring the best out of my RAs both professionally and personally," he says. "It was a challenge for me as I had never supervised any other person professionally before. I discovered how I wanted to lead others through this experience. I wanted to draw out the greatness that was already in others. I wanted to light the fire that exists in all of us."
John says that many of his RAs changed drastically, both personally and professionally, during the six short weeks of camp. "For me it was the single most rewarding experience of my life to see the growth of these college-age students. We often become complacent with where and who we are in our lives. We resist change because we already think that we know who we are. It was wonderful to see these amazing individuals discover parts of themselves that they never knew existed. They, in turn, changed me as well. I carry lessons taught to me every day by those amazing people like what it truly means to be person in the world that we live."
This experience also gave John the courage that he needed to pursue one of the great passions in life: higher education. "Thanks to my position with JHU, my time as a resident assistant at Robert Morris, and my experience as an intern in Student Life, I eventually was asked to interview with and be extended a job offer from Pittsburgh Technical Institute in Oakdale, Pa." Today he works there as a resident coordinator in PTI's Resident Life Department. "Every day I meet new challenges as I continue on in my professional journey. The dynamic is different and the lessons I'm learning are starkly different but equally relevant and fulfilling. I continue to push my students to burn brighter than they thought possible and to challenge themselves and others to do more than they thought they were capable of."
John is also currently studying for his GRE test, with plans to attend graduate school for higher education administration in the near future. He says his ultimate goal is to one day be dean of students at a university.