When Fernando Gaxiola was in high school in the Washington, D.C. area, he found photography as a creative outlet. This outlet also taught him some valuable lessons about time management; the darkroom process would always take at least 25 minutes, no matter how much you rush. So, in order to complete an assignment, he had to avoid wasting time and getting distracted at the beginning of class so that he had enough time in the darkroom. Now that Gaxiola has settled into his new life as a student at Klein College of Media and Communication, he still carries his photography teacher's motto in mind: "I don't give a damn, get in the darkroom if you can."
As a freshman communication studies major now looking to change to communication and social influence (CSI), Gaxiola enrolled at Klein College of Media and Communication and Temple University after heavily considering taking a gap year. Born in Mexico and living in both Mexico and the Washington, D.C. metro area his entire life, he decided to come to Klein and try life in Philadelphia even though he knew he would be spending most of the semester in a dorm. Still, he felt that enrolling at a media and communication college such as Klein, located in such a rich, diverse urban setting, would give him the opportunity to do the most that he could with his time — to "get in the dark room."
"One of the reasons I stayed on campus when I had the choice to go back to D.C. was because I knew I could grow a lot more here, and even with all of the limitations there are so many more opportunities to do things in Philadelphia and at Temple," he says. "So it's been about convincing myself to make the best of the situation and take all the opportunities I can."
He has certainly filled up his hours. Alongside a regular load of freshman coursework to be completed remotely from his on-campus dorm in Morgan Hall South, Gaxiola also recently began an internship with the Sierra Club, an influential environmental organization with chapters across the United States. He says that he applied for the internship both out of his passion for environmental communication — something that he hopes to continue to pursue through the CSI Department — and out of his desire to connect with similar minds in his community.
"He's really interested in environmental policy, and he's mild spoken but he's such a phenomenally cool kid," says Scott Gratson, a professor of Gaxiola's and the director of undergraduate studies and the Communication Studies Program at Klein. "He is absolutely, utterly fantastic."
He also recently joined the International Student Advisory Board, "which is a leadership position within the Department of International Student Affairs tasked with being in touch with the international student body and providing them with a voice," Gaxiola says. He earned this position by approaching International Student Affairs with concern for his fellow international students, wanting to do more. Now, he sits on the board of about 20 students and mediates their needs to Temple administration.
He says that both of these engagements are perfect not only for his interests and for keeping him involved with productive activities, but that they also compliment his communication education well. For instance, his internship at the Sierra Club involves a lot of interpersonal communication over the phone, and the International Student Advisory Board involves conflict management, mediation and communication with students and faculty. All of these experiences are directly tied to coursework in the communication and social influence major that he is now looking to pursue.
"I knew I wanted to do something with writing or photography, and I knew communications was a broad enough field that I could do that," he says."