Gabrielle Brancato, '18

Gabby Brancato sitting on a rock stamped with the Rockhurst logo.

The first semester of my freshman year, I was pretty skeptical about the whole college thing. Although I am a Kansas City native, I was still nervous about moving away from home and being away from my family for the first time. I was so nervous that I would get lost on the way to classes even though campus is fairly small. I worried too much about what people thought of me when I walked into class panting after walking to the third floor of Sedgwick (imagine Arrupe with six floors and no elevator — that's what it feels like to walk to the third floor of Sedgwick). And most importantly, I was nervous that I wouldn't find a group of friends or somewhere that I belonged to on campus.

After orientation, and before school even started, I was pretty convinced that no one had the same major as me and I wasn’t going to make any friends. It was weird being an undecided major in a sea of people who knew exactly what they were here for. I did pretty well in high school, and I became comfortable with the familiarity. For the first time in my life, I felt very lost.

I tried putting myself out there and signed up for pretty much every club that I could possibly be interested in, even though in the back of my mind I actually had no intention of joining them. After attending a few of those meetings, I decided that it wasn’t worth my time or energy if I wasn’t fully committed. It was difficult for me as a more reserved and quiet person to break out of my little bubble that I came to know so well. Needless to say, I wasn’t really enjoying the first few months of college. I would go home on the weekends while others would stay and hang out with their friends. As the first semester was coming to a close, I was considering moving home.

It was during my second semester that things started to change. Soon, I began getting to know people on my floor in McGee. I began going to more on-campus events. I dropped the clubs I wasn't interested in and I stuck with the clubs I was interested in. My fear of not making any friends soon vanished when I met one of my best friends freshman year. I finally started to feel at home here.

I ended up joining Theta Phi Alpha, where I met some of the best people on campus and made even more lifelong friends. I worked on campus for two years as a desk assistant and one as a lead desk assistant. I’ve had several other opportunities to grow in leadership roles on campus, and for that I am forever thankful to Rockhurst. Throughout my time here, I’ve been able to participate in several service opportunities, while also having the chance to grow in my faith and really understand what it means to be Jesuit. As I sit here writing this, I am overwhelmed with the amount of admiration I have for this University and the experiences that I’ve had.

I was able to finish my degree in business communication in December 2017, one semester early, along with a minor in theology and religious studies. Working as a marketing intern in the admissions office the past few months has really given me the chance to analyze what makes Rockhurst unique — how does the University stand out amongst its competitors? The answer is you: its students. I share my story here because, like you, I am one piece that makes up the Rockhurst puzzle. Each of us is different, and each of us has a different story to tell. This semester, I hope to tell as many stories as possible to showcase not only the unique opportunities Rockhurst has to offer, but also the students that make these opportunities unique. If you or someone you know is interested in telling your story, contact me at