March 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

A&S Spotlight | Senior: ‘Believe in Yourself, Trust Yourself, and Take the Chance’

This week’ Spotlight is on Gabby Bacha, Student Senate President and a senior studying Political Science. If you would like to suggest someone for a future Spotlight, please email eNEWS Editor Alicia Hopkins (

What year are you and what are you studying?

I am a senior studying Political Science with a certificate in Law, Justice & Culture. I’m also pursuing an honors thesis this year through the Political Science Department.

What drew you to these fields of study?

Gabby Bacha

Gabby Bacha

I became very interested in politics in high school. I was actually almost considering art (as a major), because I like art and I’m very creative, but in high school I went to a Barack Obama rally before he was elected—in ’08, and I just gained a huge interest in it. I also did Mock Trial in high school, so that’s where the law interest stems from. Coming to Ohio University, I thought I’d do four years in (undergraduate Political Science) and then go to law school, which isn’t the plan I have now. I really like the study a lot, and how it affects society, so Law, Justice & Culture is perfect. I had a moment my freshman year of college when I saw Barack Obama for the second time. It was full-circle for me, because he sparked my interest in politics, and I saw him as a first-year student studying politics.

What are you involved in on campus?

(Student) Senate takes up a lot of my time, so in the past, I was a part of the Resident’s Action Council, and I did a lot with Residence Life, and Residence Life and Senate together. I’m also an Assistant Resident Director…and I volunteer for the University Hearing Board. (The University Hearing Board) hears student conduct cases where they are up for suspension or expulsion. I also did Bobcat Student Orientation last summer, and I loved it.

How did you become involved in Student Senate?

My sister, when she had gone to Ohio University, was the vice president of Student Senate. We’re six years apart, so I was a little bit too young to understand what (Senate) was doing, but I noticed she had a lot of friendships, friend circles and social activities, and to me, that was just so exciting. My sister Emily and I have always had the same interests but very different personalities…so having had the same interests, I decided to pursue (Student Senate) as one of the organizations that I looked at, and I just really fell in love with it, because it was such a family atmosphere. I knew I was making change, and I could meet with administrators that not everyone else would get to meet with. I had a very personal connection to it, and that was why I stuck with it, because things got very hard there for a little bit, and I thought it was important, I thought the legacy of the organization was important, and the capacity it had was important, so that motivated me to stay in, but I was initially attracted because of family ties and because of looking for something to socially draw me in to OHIO.

What’s your experience been like at OHIO so far? What has been your favorite experience?

My favorite experience has been an annual experience, which is Homecoming. There are two aspects to this I really enjoy: my sophomore year, my sister got to march in the Homecoming Parade with me as a part of Student Senate, so that was such a cool experience, and this year, The Post did a feature story on my sister and I, and our Student Senate history together, so that was really cool. Emily and I obviously follow very similar journeys, so it’s always trying to make myself different than what she had done, and it felt good because we both had our time, and we could share that with other people and share who we are as individuals and what we both brought to the organization, so the whole celebration of Homecoming I just love. I really liked having that family tradition here. Emily and I are both first-generation college students, so that added layer of us experiencing this together was something we didn’t draw from our parents, it was something we drew from each other, and I think that plays out in Homecoming when she comes down to visit. We’re very reminded of this awesome opportunity we’ve had to attend Ohio University.

Do you still rely on your sister or ask for advice for Student Senate?

Sometimes. A lot in my election campaign I did, but now I use her more as someone to vent to, so she’s someone I can talk to about the issues I’m going through, and she knows that she doesn’t need to offer me advice, but she’s one of the only people that can understand. For her to be that active listener for me, and let me verbalize when I’m frustrated or have issues, it helps me tremendously to find that answer myself. If I need advice, she will give me advice—just so I have a guiding point.

Student Senate came under fire last year, what’s been your experience trying to come back from that?

That is my inspiration for being here. To see it go under what it went under, and see the controversy surrounding it…. It hit a personal spot for me, and that’s what motivated me to fix it. This year, I’m really proud of us being able to re-establish the integrity of the organization. I have administrators saying, “I’m so proud of what you did. You’re actually reaching out to students,” and that’s the other thing. We’ve seen so much participation. Last year, after we won the election, we had 50 people apply for pointed positions, which never happens. We’ve had a constant steady stream of people trying to get involved this year because they see that we’re normal students out in the community really trying to represent that realness that we brought back. I (also) think the integrity aspect is huge. People know they can come to my office and I’m going to welcome them and hear what they have to say. That genuine student concern and care is a big thing.

Is there a most interesting or favorite class that sticks out in your mind? What made it so special to you?

I would say there’s been two classes. One was my Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies class. I think that was one of the first classes I ever took that made me critically think about institutional structures and about privilege. Going into that class, I was always an advocate for women, and definitely a feminist, but that really strengthened my convictions and my feminist view on life, so it made me critically think about the structures around me in ways I’ve never had to think about them before. For me, that was a big eye-opener.

My other (class) would have been my Law, Justice & Culture class, for similar reasons. It made me critically think about how people interact with law, and in ways they don’t know, and that was an eye-opening class for me. It really turned what I thought upside down, (and) made me want to learn more, which I think is the important thing, and it set me on the track of taking similar classes. It sparked an academic interest and fire that I didn’t necessarily have before.

When you came into OHIO, did you ever develop a bucket list of things you wanted to do, places you want to go?

I never really did a bucket list, but I’ve found there are things as I go on, I’m like, “I really have to try that restaurant,” or “I have to go do that thing.” As I’m entering my senior year, though, there are a lot of things where I’m like, “That’s not me, I’m not going to do it,” but I think you should try everything once, and I think that’s something I wish I’d realized my freshman year. Go see the really weird band at Casa. Hike up to (a hillside overlooking campus) and watch the sunrise. Those are things I wish I’d done a little bit more, so living that life of “fear of missing out,” but trying to make up for it this year. I think the biggest thing for me is not necessarily a bucket list, but I’ve always been very academically driven, ambitious, and goal-driven, but learning to have time for myself was something that I learned in college…. So, I think just taking advantage of the opportunities and fun that college brings is just an over-arching goal for me.

If you could give any advice to other students, what would you say to them?

I would say find a niche, and don’t be afraid if you don’t find a niche until your junior or senior year, but don’t necessarily just keep your friend group to the people you work with, or the people you live with. Go out there and find something you’re genuinely interested in, and I think a lot of pieces will fall into place for you. It will make you more interested in what you’re studying. It’ll make you more interested in your social life. It’ll make you more interested in a lot of things. It’s always okay to invest in yourself, that’s my biggest piece (of advice). This is the time to invest in yourself. Don’t necessarily do what your parents want or what other people tell you. Invest in yourself and what makes you happy because this is one of the only times in your life that you have so many options to pursue, and it’s something you might not ever get again, so do it. If you don’t put you first, the other stuff will never fall into place.

If you could tell your pre-OHIO self one thing, what would it be?

Always take the chance. My whole life I just played it safe. I’m very cautious, always weighing the options more than I should. Just take the chance on yourself; you never know what could happen. This place is full of opportunities. I see people so much younger than me making strides in ways I wish I could’ve, and if I’d just believed I could’ve, I would’ve been able to do that thing too, and help others do it, too. Believe in yourself, trust yourself, and take the chance. You never know what will happen.

What experiences have you had/are you planning with internships, study abroad, clubs/organizations, and volunteer work/service learning?

I took an internship at San Francisco State for the summer in Conference Coordinating, so I get to work with their orientation program and all the people they’re trying to show their university off to. It’s going to be really cool. I really enjoy that interaction of talking about university life to people; I’m really passionate about it. This fall, I will be going to school for higher education in student affairs, (but) I’m not sure where as of yet.

I’m taking a Politics of Appalachia class that requires service learning, and I haven’t volunteered as of yet, but I will be volunteering at United Campus Ministries. I’d love to be able to volunteer more, but I don’t necessarily have the time to do it. I think we live in a very unique area living in Appalachia…and I think UCM does a good job of giving back to the Athens community.

(For) my senior honors thesis, I’m doing research on university conduct systems. I’m looking at student conduct systems, and the rights of an individual going through that system, but also the rights of the community in that system, so I’m doing a specific focus on due process and free speech rights. I’ve done a lot of analysis of communitarianism and liberalism…and juvenile justice, looking at their systems to apply and explain where the individual’s rights come in, where the community’s rights come in, and if this is a fair balance. (It also involves) a lot of research on other university student conduct codes.

What are your plans for the near future?

I really like the aspect of campus life; being an RA really made me love that, so I want to stay and do that for a few more years. Maybe working in housing, maybe working in conduct, or student services of any kind. I learned a lot in the classroom, but I learned just as much by involving myself in campus life, so how we are supporting students that way is really important to me because that teaches some of the most valuable lessons, so that’s what I want to do. It’s a lot to handle, but I’m excited. If you try hard, you can do it, and I’m going to do it.

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