Coordinator of Student Engagement Andrew Salemi had never planned for something as large as Flunk Day before coming to Knox, where he’s been advising RA’s, Union Board and all other campus clubs since he got to campus Winter Term. He plays a vital, but sometimes unseen, role in all activities on campus.
Before coming to Knox, Salemi graduated from University of California San Diego in 2016. As a student, he noticed a tendency to prioritize extracurriculars over academics. That tendency would later help him realize his calling.
“No one take cues from me on academic life,” Salemi said.
Salemi spent most of his free time as chair for the Residential Hall Council, his alma-mater’s Union Board equivalent. Furthermore, he was in charge of orientation and part of student government. This led him to be well acquainted with the student engagement staff at UCSD.
“Student engagement became my passion. All of a sudden it hit me that for three years I was working for student affair professionals and I could be like them one day,” Salemi said.
After graduating, his résumé was passed along by an old boss connected to Knox and consequently he was offered the student engagement position here– alongside his dream position at UCSD. Salemi chose Knox. Salemi explained that as a young professional, a variety of experience with schools, large and small alike, would be a great way to strengthen his qualifications.
When asked if he was excited to plan Flunk Day, Salemi said that his answer would have been “no” last year.
“It was probably one of the most daunting tasks I’d ever been presented with. I had never had to plan an event that large… I’m not gonna lie, I was scared. Now, after having my first experience with it, I’m actually looking forward to it- to see what we can do differently. I’ve gotten a lot of really great feedback from people about the event.” he said.
Salemi said his favorite part of Flunk Day was the staff involvement. As a staff member, he said it felt good to see the support of his colleagues.
“It was so nice to see so many faculty and staff members out there hanging out with students, talking to students, just being around in general,” Salemi said.
In the future, he says students can expect less money to be put toward inflatables, which he realized were underutilized and for that money to be redirected to different activities.
Salemi noted that being young can be hard when encountering ageist individuals who deem him incapable. He combats this by reminding himself he is qualified. He also says the age gap can be funny at times. He recalls times where his fellow staff members bring up things from their childhood and both he and the student worker in the office completely miss the reference.
“But as far as connecting to my fellow staff, I haven’t noticed any issues. I’ve always connected to people outside my age range, my partner is a few years older than me. My friends in college and high-school were a couple years older. My mom used to joke that I always sounded like an adult, even as a child,” Salemi said.
Salemi certainly sees the advantage to his age. He believes it helps him approach his role as an advisor with more empathy. Among all his responsibilities, Salemi crowns advising Union Board as his favorite part of the job.
“It’s what I’m most comfortable with and what I’m most used to. It’s also where I’m learning the least, so I have to constantly push myself outside those comfort zones.”
Anyone closely watching the actions of Union Board since Salemi’s arrival can recognize his zeal for Union Board initiatives: both the new digital sign and black-red rebranding were his Union Board projects last year. Salemi also has a message for all the struggling clubs out there in terms of event-planning: use him as a resource.
“I’ve started open door hours… That’s where any student who is part of any organization can stop by, chat with me and get their questions answered, or talk about an event they have coming up… I want people to use me as a resource. I’m happiest when from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., I’m swamped. That’s fulfilling for me,” Salemi said.
He wants to do his best to help students create successful community events on campus.
“I think the biggest thing for me is either a reinforced or established sense of community. For me, these events – yeah they’re fun, yeah they’re exciting, free food is always great of course- but at the end of the day, it’s about bringing people together and establishing that community. I think it’s awesome when I can see two people walk into an event separately, and by the end of the night, they’re best friends. That’s when I feel like I’ve done my job,” Salemi said.