If you are like most people, you will walk away from your undergraduate career with fond memories, great friends, new skills, and a few “words of wisdom” that will follow you throughout your career.
For Bart Gobeil ’94, the words of wisdom that have followed him after leaving UMass are “it’s all about perspective.”
“I remember sitting in an introductory Political Science class my first semester,” he says. “The professor asked us to think about how, when you cross over North Pleasant Street and play ‘Frogger’ with the cars, you wonder why no one knows how to drive. However, when you are driving through campus, you constantly ask yourself why so many students are running out in the street!” How you view the situation depends significantly on if you’re walking or driving at the moment.
Although Bart has settled far away from North Pleasant Street – he is currently in Atlanta serving as Georgia’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) – he often thinks back to that street, and those words of wisdom, as he interacts with his state’s residents. “I always ask ‘where is that person coming from’ when I try to help solve their problem,” he says.
As the COO, Bart faces a new challenge every day. “When the phone rings and there’s a crisis, we have to think through how to solve the problem while simultaneously pushing forward the governor’s goals and initiatives.” Remembering perspective can help him relate to the variety of agencies, officials, and citizens with which he interacts.
Keeping perspective in mind was important while Bart was a student, too. As a conservative student on a typically liberal campus, his viewpoint was often in the minority. “Of course, I grew up in a family where I was the only conservative, so I was used to that setting,” he says.
Nonetheless, Bart had to work hard to maintain his values and remind others that a liberal perspective was not the only perspective. “I thought it was important to realize that people could think differently from you,” he says.
He reminds students today to keep that in mind: “just because you think differently from everyone else on campus, doesn't mean they are all right,” he says. “Don't let your fire get extinguished if other people try to put it out.”
After graduation, Bart knew he wanted to leave the area, but did not have set plans. “I was looking at different opportunities in the South,” he remembers. “I didn't know anybody in Atlanta, but the person I was renting an apartment from offered me a one way ticket, so I just went for it.”
Although hard work got him where he is today, he credits his UMass roots with opening several early opportunities for him. When starting out in Atlanta, for instance, he secured a job interview because one of the human resources officers was originally from Northampton and noticed UMass on his resume. “She wanted to give a Yankee an opportunity to shine!” he recalls.
Taking advantage of that opportunity helped Bart get his “foot in the door,” but he had to prove himself once hired. “Right place, right time is true,” he says “but once you’re in the door, you have to work your butt off and build trust from other people.”
Deciding to move to Atlanta ended up being the perfect choice for Bart because it made him step off of a traditional path, and he encourages students to consider similar moves: “Don’t get comfortable just going to UMass and then trying to go to Boston or doing what your friends are doing,” he says. “Do something different.”
At one of Bart’s first jobs, a mentor told him that “jumping out” was the key to success. “It’s not just taking that first leap after graduation,” he says. “Even years after I graduated, I was reminded that it was incumbent upon me to jump again and make a big exclamation mark in my career. You have to do that several times, and you can’t be afraid to fail.”
Have confidence that UMass has prepared you for your chosen career, he says. “Everyone knows UMass is a great institution.”
- Alumni News