Davis journeys come full circle

CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

UC Davis students find jobs at university after graduation

As graduation approaches, so does the question of what students are going to do when they leave UC Davis. For many students, that answer is coming back — as faculty members. As the education process comes full circle, many UC Davis alumni land jobs with the university immediately after they receive their diplomas.

“When I was an undergrad, […] I was hired as a student assistant at Academic Technology Services,” said Tim Kerbavaz, the special event support technical director for the UC Davis Academic Technology Services Department and a UC Davis alumnus. “I graduated at the end of Winter Quarter, so I stayed as a student employee until the end of spring, and then a job opened. My boss […] retired right as I graduated, so I was able to apply for his job.”

For alumni like Kerbavaz, the transition from being a student to becoming an employee of the university fosters a variety of different perspectives on the UC Davis community.

“When I started [working] I really felt like, ‘Okay, I know that it’s like to be a student here, and I know what […] would help the students at the university,’” said computer science lecturer Robert Gysel. “[I was] thinking I could probably do some things to change that, and then [the transition made me] realize how entrenched everything is. The system is kind of just the way it is.”

After completing his undergraduate degree at UC Davis in 2006, Gysel spent his graduate education at the university as well, receiving his Ph.D. in 2014. As with many alumni-turned-faculty scenarios, the kind of transition that Gysel made can largely indicate the differences between staff and students.

“When you’re a student […] you’re very focused on your schoolwork and your labs and your friend groups and all of that student stuff that you have to deal with,” said Trevor Ehlenbach, the multimedia coordinator for UC Davis Athletics and a 2015 alumnus. “When you start working here, you get to kind of take a step back and see students from the opposite side. I get to see all the things that are provided to the students, all the structures that are there to support students and all the behind-the-scenes work.”

Like Gysel and Kerbavaz, Ehlenbach switched to becoming a staff member right out of school. However, Ehlenbach’s multimedia position at the university’s athletic department was created for him once the interim athletic director took a look at his videography work for Aggie TV (now Aggie Studios) as an undergraduate.

Over the years, these alumni have seen changes everywhere around the university, from the opening and closing of restaurants downtown to their own ideas of how the campus operates.

“My perception of campus may have changed more than campus itself,” Kerbavaz said. “There [are] a lot of things [that] I think, as a student, struck me as really cryptic or […] hard to understand. As a staff person, I’m like, ‘Of course that’s the way it is.’ I was a student and had that great deal of investment on campus, [and] now I’m on the other side of it. As a student, it’s like, I have five years to finish my degree, these things have to change now. As a staff person, […] everything moves more slowly.”

Because these staff members have been students at the university, their perspectives often help shape the decisions they make.

“I have to make a decision and choose what battles to fight,” Kerbavaz said. “I really have to remember the student experience. That student experience can get lost amongst the bureaucratic machine of the university.”

Another factor that many alumni did not take into consideration upon transitioning into an employee position at the university is the status change from student to faculty.

“I get recognized around campus or downtown,” Gysel said. “That’s weird, [but] I’m a bit used to it now. When you’re a student, if you walk around and your friend sees you, [it’s not a big deal if] your friend sees you. But [as faculty], all of a sudden, strangers go ‘Oh hey!’.”

Despite the somewhat strange shift from student to staff, Gysel, Kerbavaz and Ehlenbach agree on the many reasons for graduates to stay in Davis.

“One of my favorite parts about UC Davis is it’s a very relaxed campus,” Ehlenbach said. “Everyone’s very friendly [and] happy, and since there isn’t anything too crazy to do in Davis, [recent alumni] all just spend a lot of time hanging out with each other and learning more about each other. It’s a very diverse campus.”

For others, staying in Davis has less to do with the environment of the university and more to do with friends, career paths and other factors.

“I […] have a lot of friends that are still doing their undergrad at Davis or graduate school, so that was one of the reasons I wanted to stay in Davis,” said Dani Judal, an athletic development assistant and a 2016 UC Davis graduate. “I also wanted to start a career in athletics, so I thought this would be a good stepping stone. I love it now, I think it was the right choice for me.”

Regardless of their reasons for staying in Davis, many alumni agree that UC Davis is a perpetually changing university with many more changes to come.

“Every four years, it’s a completely different student body,” Ehlenbach said. “What the students wanted while I was a student is incredibly different than now. It’s one of those things where sometimes students forget there were a lot of people here before them, and there will be a lot of people after them. It’s kind of important to take a step back and learn about the school’s history so you can put it on the right path.”

 

Written by: Allyson Tsuji — features@theaggie.org