Shailicia Gerald, who goes by Shai, is a senior in computer engineering from St. Stephens, South Carolina. She is an Air Force ROTC student and served as an orientation leader during the summer to help freshmen settle into their new college homes away from home. Austin Butler recently interviewed Shai for the Digest.
How do you define diversity? Why is diversity important to you?
Diversity is present in different perspectives. Diversity means a lot to me because I pick up cultural knowledge from many different people. My mom is Filipino, so there is an Asian influence there, but also my grandmother was raised in St. Stephen, so I have southern heritage too. My roommate, Wanose Getachew (a junior in science, technology and society) is Ethiopian, so she has brought different perspectives I appreciate because they are things that I would have never considered otherwise. Even if people don’t feel the way you do, think the way you do or have the same beliefs or values that you do, you should consider being open to their perspectives.
What is your passion?
I love mentoring others. I’m really passionate about paying it forward, especially when I see people hurting or going through the same things that I’ve been through. Heartbreak, major surgery, going through school, dealing with making decisions that parents may not like and figuring out what to do next – providing insight and paying it forward is what I aim to do. I was an orientation leader, and it was an eye-opening experience because you are in the transition with new students and their parents, and even though it may be their third kid to go to college, the parents are still nervous and have questions. Being a part of that transition and being a guiding light into NC State for new students plays into my passion.
What are you looking forward to accomplishing most this semester?
My roommate and I are doing what we call “Wholesome and Wellness.” When people say they are going to do better, they are usually talking about better eating habits and fitness, but we are taking it a step further. We are also focusing on budgeting, using time management and being sweeter to people. We are working on our business clothes and getting jobs, so we are going to company networking nights and getting our resumes ready for the career fairs. A lot of Wholesome and Wellness is getting organized and staying dedicated to our planners – we are making good life decisions overall.
What do you love about NC State?
NC State has brought out my sweeter side. In college, your family isn’t here, so you need to make a new family here. I have friends who will cook for me, and I’ll cook for them. There was a semester where some other ROTC students and I would have “family dinner night.” On Sunday evenings, we’d all go to the dining hall together. I remember my current roommate made me chicken soup from scratch when I was sick. I’ve even had friends go to the ER with me. I believe I’ve found some good people, and that’s what I love about NC State. You find your connections and you find your niche.
Would you like to name a specific individual who has mentored you and describe how they have helped you?
My first job ever was with African American Culture Center. Ms. Thorpe gave me my interview, and when she hugged me at the end, I just knew that I was never going to find someone who cared about me like that. There was a lot of love and warmth just walking into her office. Master Sergeant Banks, in Air Force ROTC, is the G.O.A.T. (“greatest of all time”). She has been there for me, with family stuff, emotional stuff, stuff outside of ROTC – she’s taken the time to invest in me. Wanose Getachew and Eric Graham (a sophomore in biological engineering) have been there for me. There have been a lot of people who have contributed to my success at NC State.
Austin Butler is a communications intern in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.