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Ripken Gorman: Overcoming the Fear of Leadership

Ripken Gorman is a third-year student majoring in political science here at the University of Georgia. The summer of 2016, he decided to do something different. It takes a lot of guts to participate in something that catapults you miles away from your comfort zone, but according to Ripken, becoming an Orientation Leader and embracing the uncomfortable for the sake of something bigger than himself made the whole experience completely worth it.

1. What made you come to UGA?

My story is a little unique in that I fell in love with UGA a long time ago. My family has always been a huge supporter of Georgia football. On top of that, I have an aunt whom I am very close to, and she is only ten years older than me. She came to UGA and adored it. I can remember coming to visit her while she was an undergrad and thinking to myself that I would be a Dawg one day too. As I progressed into high school, I just had this quiet certainty that UGA was where I wanted to be for college. The university catered to all of the many career paths that I was entertaining, and it just seemed like a perfect fit. Senior year came around, and I applied to one school, got in early, and the rest is history. I tell people that I had ten years of expectations tied up in UGA, and it has exceeded every one of them in my time here.

 2. Why did you apply to become an orientation leader?

My decision to apply to be an orientation leader was the result of some persuasion from one of my greatest mentors in life, an uncomfortable amount of courage, and a desire to work towards something bigger than myself for the sake of others. I loved the idea of having the opportunity and platform to affect people in such a pivotal time of life, but being on a stage and in front of a group of people was as far from my comfort zone as possible. With some prompting and encouragement from friends and mentors, I began to believe, just enough, that it was worth it to apply. I convinced myself that I could overcome the fears I would bring to the job. If I clung tightly enough to the idea that it’s not about me, then I could do it if somehow the experience of an incoming student was positively impacted as a result. That’s what I told myself, and somehow I got the job. I still question how, and whether the directors had a lapse in judgment or something when they hired me, but I think we all turned out okay!

3. How would you describe your experience?

The summer of OL16 was the experience of a lifetime. I cannot properly put into words how great it was, because it’s one of those things that words would only diminish, but I’ll try my best. It was truly transformational for me, and I think I can honestly say that I’m a better person today than I was before orientation. The nature of the job is to challenge every limit you think you have. It is incredibly tough. The summer was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I got to welcome people to an institution that I truly love, and my love and appreciation for it has only grown as a result of my time as an OL. I got to witness greatness, in the efforts of my amazing teammates, and in the stories of the incredible students I got to serve, day in and day out. That is an infinitely special thing. I am forever humbled by the fact that I was able to be a part of that greatness. There is nothing like it.

4. Would you recommend it to other students?

I highly recommend being an OL to other students. I told people all summer, this is the best job in the world. I still stand by that. If you love people and UGA, and feel like challenging yourself like never before for the sake of everyone except you, then this is the job for you.

5.  Do you have any tips for students that want to get more involved on campus?

There are so many great ways to get involved on this campus! I think the easiest way is to talk to people. Keep your ear to the ground and see what other people are involved in. Listen out for things that spark your interest. Beyond that, do some research! Check out the Center for Student Activities and Involvement, the Center for Leadership and Service, and the UGA Involvement Network. Those are all great starting places to get connected to the hundreds of clubs and organizations here. Most importantly, remember to chase what interests you, and be prepared to embrace discomfort! Uncomfortable is good, especially when getting involved. Join that thing that sounds good but scares you a little. It’s the times in life when we are uncomfortable that good things happen. That’s when we learn and grow. So embrace that and walk into it with whatever courage you can find. I can’t stress enough how beneficial that can be.

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