As a student, Gazdecki was able to be involved with UCSB through different campus organizations including Associated Students and the Campus Republicans. Now, 43 years after graduating, he continues to remain connected with UCSB. This year, Gazdecki is a member of the All Gaucho Reunion Greek Fest subcommittee planning the Greek Farewell Brunch. Take a quick peek at how his fraternity experience shaped him, and how he reconnected with UCSB.
What was the academic environment and work school life balance like for you as an active student?
When I pledged my fraternity fall quarter, I was very happy about it. And I shortly de-pledged afterwards because I was concerned that I would become too distracted by the social aspects and my studies would suffer and I would not find myself in a good way.
When you pledged a fraternity, you got a brother. So, your big brother was supposed to help you through.
Mine came to me and said, ‘Well, Jim, we respect your decision, we’re sad about it, but would you mind sharing with me why you did it?
I said, ‘Well, I want to make sure that I’m successful academically, it’s very important to me.’
He said, ‘It may surprise you, but so do the rest of us. One of the things that fraternities helped me do is learn to manage my time. If you’d like to re-pledge we would be happy and I will take you under my wing. Every night, during the school week we’ll go after dinner to the library together and we’ll study, and then at the end of it, maybe we’ll do something social, maybe we won’t, but I’ll help you learn how to manage your time.’
Sure enough, he did. That was one of the greatest things I learned at UCSB.
What were some of the biggest lessons you took away from your fraternity experience?
I already mentioned learning really good time management and how to prioritize. That is very, very valuable, but also, learning how to live with people from diverse backgrounds. We had to assume responsibilities for every aspect of that fraternity house. From paying the rent and later the mortgage, and hiring the cook, preparing lunches, making sure we had enough money throughout the year to eat.
I learned how to read people, be respectful, gain emotional intelligence and develop leadership. I also gained those skills serving as the executive vics president of Associated Students during my junior year. That was really a great testing time for me because I was the only conservative to speak of in student government in sort of a radical era. It really helped me become more politically aware of how to deal with people who disagreed with me and how to still advance certain things. Serving in that capacity in AS government helped me in my career and social life.
How did you stay connected with UCSB after graduation?
I moved back to Santa Barbara in 1980, and some of the undergraduates in the fraternity house came to me and said, ‘Would you consider being our chapter adviser’, and I did. So most of the decade of the 1980s, I was chapter adviser for Phi Sig.
Then, about 2000/2001, the then executive director [of the Alumni Association] Peter Steiner and Mary Jane Salcido, came to me, and said, ‘we’re looking for new board members, and would you be interested in being considered?’
I said, ‘Well, yes.’
I served two terms, and was very honored. Since that time, the Alumni Association has asked me to help with different events on occasions, including reaching out to Republican legislators on behalf of UCSB. I’ve been on Greek’s events and activities for several years.
Read more about Gazdecki’s involvement in the College Republicans as a student and continued involvement with the GOP, holding both elected and appointed offices, time spent as a law professor and outstanding legal career online in his full length Alumni Spotlight here.