Issue # 18– January 31, 2011
Erika Heffernan – A Little Disney Magic @ RIT!
Erika Heffernan is a second year graduate student in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences (CIAS). While her home state is Maine, Erika has spent a considerable amount of time in the state of Florida completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida and working for the Walt Disney Corporation. She is a first year Community Advocate and lives and works in the Colony Manor complex.
Interviewer: You did your undergraduate degree in Photography and Film at the University of Central Florida, how did you become interested in attending RIT for graduate school?
Erika: When applying for a Masters in Fine Art I knew I wanted to go to a top ten school for photography. RIT, with all of its Kodak history and tradition and being the 3rd ranked school, I knew I would be lucky if I got in. I got into several schools but RIT was always in contact with me trying to get me to sign on, so after their persistence I knew it would be the place for me.
Interviewer: What has been the biggest transition from Orlando, FL to Rochester, NY?
Erika: The weather! I grew up in Maine so you would think it wouldn’t be so hard for me but after the sun of Florida, the gray sky of Rochester is hard to adjust to. In New England when it is cold, it will still be sunny most of the time during the day.
Interviewer: You currently work for Walt Disney World in a unique and exciting position – can you share what you do at Disney and how you came to work there?
Erika: I work for Walt Disney World as a Guest Relations hostess and VIP Tour Guide. I will be celebrating my 10 year anniversary with the company this May and I am so excited. I have been a VIP Guide the last 7 years and it is so much fun. I get to show guests around the happiest place on earth and make great memories for their family. Also, I go out to eat and ride roller coasters for a living – it’s not a bad gig.
Interviewer: You are a first year Community Advocate in Residence Life living and working in Colony Manor – what interested you in the CA position and what has been the best part of the job thus far?
Erika: Growing up an athlete and coach, I am always looking for leadership and mentoring opportunities. My first year at RIT was intense. I did not have a lot of time to do much outside of my program but after taking the summer off, I was looking for a new challenge and an opportunity to get more involved with the RIT community. The best part of the job so far is meeting all of the students and helping them to grow and learn.
Interviewer: What Residence Life program has been your favorite so far this year and why?
Erika: Chocolate On Ice was amazing! It had such a great turnout and chocolate…hello! I was photographing the event and everyone looked like they were having so much fun - it was great.
Interviewer: What do you feel you’ve gained from your role as a CA?
Erika: Understanding. As a student advocate I deal with many mentor situations. I provide a calm, outsider perspective on a situation. It has been great to help students from all kinds of backgrounds come to a common ground. It has taught me to look at situations from many points of view, not just my own.
Interviewer: If you could give some advice to someone thinking about getting involved with Residence Life what would that be?
Erika: DO IT! It was by far the best choice I have made here at RIT. I was worried it might be too much with my studies but we are students first, that being said balance is key. I feel like I have found a family that supports me and helps with anything I need.
Interviewer: What are some of your other involvements here at RIT?
Erika: I am the president of the Graduate Photography Association and play on the Field Hockey team. Like I said before, balance is key. You need some fun outside work and studies.
Interviewer: What else would you like your residents to know about you?
Erika: I am easy to talk to and my email is always open so write me if you need anything.
Interviewer: What are your plans once you graduate in May?
Erika: My thesis show "Re-Learning to Learn" is May 6th, 2011 at Booksmart Studio so pretty much that is all I can think about right now but after that is done, I want to take a vacation, maybe a Disney Cruise on our new ship “The Dream”! For the future, I want to be involved in higher education in some way. I will be qualified to teach at the college level so there is that route and I have enjoyed my year in Res Life so much I would like to continue with that somehow too. Who knows what the future brings but I am excited to find out!
You can contact Erika through her Residence Life email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more articles from this issue, click here