My Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2017

It’s hard to believe that it was ten years ago that I stepped onto the Salem State College (now Salem State University)  campus as a freshmen. I honestly went into that first year with no idea who I was, what I was doing, or where I was going. It took that entire year to being to put the pieces together and it was the end of the year I learned the secret to success in college and beyond:

Get involved!

My first real involvement on campus was when I auditioned for Human Action Theatre. Being an English major it was a bit of a long-shot but the director took a chance on me and sure enough I found myself on stage for the 2004 orientation. It was a thrill.humanaction09

From there I joined the, now disbanded, Students’ Works Theatre Project, an independent theatre group that gave opportunities to students to write, direct and perform 10-minute plays. It was a chance to stretch my wings and get to know people on campus.

I had found myself a niche in the theatre world and even began taking classes in the department. This lead to my applying to direct the 2005 Human Action Theatre (a position I held until my last summer at Salem State in 2009) while serving as assistant director for Summer Theatre’s Return to the Forbidden Planet.

From one simple audition, my entire world was changed.

Following my summer being immersed in the theatrical world I added on a second major- theatre. This found me in a whole new world and soon I was the publicist for the Student Theatre Ensemble.

At this point I must also caution against limiting yourself to just one area of involvement. While the theatre world at SSC was great, there was a world beyond that. Thankfully, because of my involvement with orientation and Human Action Theatre, I had made a lot of connections in the Student Government,  Student Commuter Association, and more.

These connections lead me into a new world with the residence halls as I signed on to become and academic mentor in the freshmen hall and a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary. My position in the hall gave me the unique opportunity to get the underclassmen involved as I was constantly chatting with them and letting them know about events on campus.

My final year at Salem State proved to be one of the busiest as a was elected into the Public Relations position for Program Council, a group responsible for some of the biggest events on campus. It was a crazy and amazing time and though there were a lot of long nights, close calls on getting assignments in and very little free time, I regret none of it. My schedule was always full but for all the right reasons.

I am deeply indebted to Bruce Perry and Becky Jimenez in the campus center for all the opportunities they gave me. If you are looking to get involved and don’t know where to start, these are certainly the people to talk to. They believed in me, helped me learn to push beyond my limits, and turned me into a leader. I can’t leave out Jeff Smith and Helene Collins who put up with so much from me and were great shoulders to lean on.

I can’t promise that your college experience will be the same as mine but I can promise that if you go through the next four years without checking out what is going on beyond the classroom, you will regret it. During my time at Salem State my professors taught me a lot about the world, getting involved on campus taught me a lot about life.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Pictured Above: The 2009 Cast of Human Action Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Stu Grieve.

3 thoughts on “My Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2017

  1. I clicked on this because I’d recognize a group of theater kids standing in a hallway anywhere. I have several photos like this from my own college days, and it made me smile to see the similarity. One audition freshman year changed my life, too. I love it. You’re right – get involved!

    • We are certainly a noticeable group! I kinda miss those days, well, mostly the people. The cast pictured was a part of what I consider to be Human Action Theatre’s best year ever. We put on a great show and works out little actor butts off.
      I hope people get the message! It seems corny but getting involved, the one audition (which I should mention, I tagged along with a friend and ended up making something up last minute- I got cast, she didn’t!) changed everything about who I was and created everything that I am today. I’ll never forget those experiences!

  2. Pingback: My Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2020 | Breaking Down Digital Walls

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