Santa Clara alumna shares lessons learned in leadership roles
November 8, 2018
The following is an entry in a series called “Voices of Santa Clara,” which profiles noteworthy students and faculty. The Q & A is excerpted from the “Voices of Santa Clara” podcast.
Rachel Robles graduated from Santa Clara in June 2018 with degrees in business and communication. During her senior year, she held leadership roles in two of the biggest organizations on campus: APB (Activities Programming Board) and Student Ambassadors. Robles is passionate about event planning and shared some of her favorite stories, leadership lessons and memorable experiences from the past four years.
Gavin Cosgrave: Do you have a favorite location on campus?
Rachel Robles: It’s always fun taking visiting families up Palm Drive to the Mission. Everyone stops to take pictures because it’s the most iconic view with the fountain.
That’s where I get to talk about Jesuit values and how Santa Clara’s education sets us apart from different schools.
GC: What have you learned from the student ambassador experience, and from leading the program this past year?
RR: It has been one of my favorite experiences by far because of the people, leadership and connection that I’ve felt to Santa Clara.
I got hired the fall of my first year and have been doing it for the past four years. We have presentations every week from different people on campus on different topics. It has made me appreciate the nuances that go into building this school, as well as leading me to ask questions about how to improve the student experience. I’ve gotten to see some of the behind-the-scenes of what people do here as well as sharing information and resources.
I’m in charge of event management within our leadership team, so I work on Open House and Preview Day. At the end of our Preview Day, I was sobbing because it has been an amazing experience to work with a high-energy team who has such a passion for what we do and letting people know our authentic experience at Santa Clara.
GC: Why did you personally choose to come to Santa Clara?
RR: I applied to 13 different schools and that was too many. Ten were in state because my parents told me I had to stay in-state. I actually got wait-listed at Santa Clara, and it was by no means near the top of my list.
I deposited to UCSB and visited there. It was really when I visited Santa Clara that I changed my perspective.
I went on the admissions tour and student panel and heard from the students talk about more than just the classroom. They said that they had the resources to find what they were passionate about and formed connections with professors and others.
I realized that this was a really special place because the students not only talked about their academic experience and felt prepared to get a job, but that they felt like they had grown and figured out who they are.
After that I realized that no place had affected me in that way, and I felt a strong connection. After just 15 minutes of the tour, I knew I wanted to come here.
GC: What did you learn from working at APB?
RR: I also joined APB my first year as a first-year activities coordinator.
It meshes all my different strengths because I love being around people, but also the logistical project management stuff.
I was activities manager my first two years, took a year off because I went abroad, and I was director my senior year. Now I manage staff and give them the tools and resources to plan events themselves.
I want to go into event management as a career, so it helped me figure out that I love it. There is no greater feeling than on the day of an event, running around, setting up, calling vendors—I love that rush. APB helped me discover that I want to do that long term.
GC: What would a dream job be after graduation?
RR: I’m a big Disney fan, and this job requires a ton of experience, but this job would be planning Disney dream vacations for people. That sounds amazing to me. I love pulling different pieces and giving someone a plan.
Working for Disney in their dream vacations sector would be incredible. But, in the Bay Area I’d love to work for a tech company doing product launches or event planning.
GC: Has anyone ever asked you a funny or strange question during a tour?
RR: One time, a dad was really upset that if you’re in a residence hall like Sobrato or Graham, the school doesn’t provide toilet paper for you. He was really mad. I said, “I don’t know how to help you, sir.” I was thinking that if you can afford to come to Santa Clara and pay tuition, or you’re getting a scholarship, I’m pretty sure you can afford toilet paper. I said, “Yeah, that’s the price you pay for having your own bathroom!”
Another time, I was shadowing a tour and the guide was talking about Jesuit values.
After she finished talking, she asked, “Does anyone have any questions about religion?”
A kid said, “I think we all have questions about religion,” and I thought that was the best thing ever. The sass was pretty funny.
GC: What advice would you give to a first-year student starting out at Santa Clara?
RR: It would be finding the balance between saying ‘yes’ and saying ‘no.’ A lot of Santa Clara veterans either say “always say yes and be open to different opportunities” or they say that you have to learn how to say no and not be overwhelmed.
I think finding the balance and finding what you’re interested in, but making sure you’re giving your best effort without being spread too thin.
Also being confident in who you are. No matter what happens you’ll figure it out. There’s a reason you’re here.
GC: If you could send a message to everyone in the United States, what would you say?
RR: Be kind and courageous. Those are two of the values I hold close to my heart.
To listen to the full interview, visit voicesofsantaclara.com or search “Voices of Santa Clara” on the iTunes Podcast App.