Our next installment of “Gannon’s History: Past, Present and Future” takes us to an office tucked away in Beyer Hall Suite 201. Here, you will find Angela ‘Ange’ Coustillac.
Although she may not have a building named after her (at least not yet), Coustillac has become a signature piece of many students’ Gannon experience.
While Coustillac now works in the office of Student Development and Engagement, she started her Gannon journey as an undergrad student. Now, she works diligently to transform the lives of students in their time at Gannon as well as gives them the best Gannon experience possible.
Coustillac was the facilitator of the recent complete makeover of the first year summer programs for College Days, which occurs throughout numerous weeks in July, and Preview GU, which kicks off about a week before classes start.
I was fortunate enough to work on the Transition Guide staff for both of these programs and it was an experience that led me to many new friendships as well as an opportunity to grow both personally and in my leadership skills.
Through my involvement in College Days and Preview GU, I worked closely with Coustillac. I was consistently amazed at how much care and attention to detail she put into both her Transition Guides, and the experience of the first-year students.
I think I can speak for the entire transition staff when I say that we were always caffeinated, with a pot of coffee on standby at all times, and definitely never went hungry, as there was a table of snacks available at every training session.
She exudes positivity and professionalism while also being relatable and relaxed. On a sunny afternoon, in a coffeeshop buzzing with people, I sat down with Coustillac to talk a little bit more about her Gannon experience.
Coustillac hails from the Cleveland area but I was curious as to what originally made her decide to make Gannon her home.
In answering this question, Coustillac reflected back to her high school years. She was a lacrosse player that was being scouted by Division I schools, practicing and going to training camps with big dreams.
These dreams were interrupted with an injury her junior year. This injury caused many of the larger schools to back off and lose interest.
However, at the recommendation of a friend, Coustillac checked out Gannon.
She said what drew her in was the way that Gannon felt like family. She talked of the way that, with the Gannon coach, she didn’t just feel like an athlete or a number. She felt like a person.
Many Gannon students, including myself, can relate to these sentiments as a reason that they chose to come here.
After spending years at Gannon for her undergraduate education, Coustillac decided to stay at Gannon because of both what she saw in the university, and what the university had done for her.
Coustillac didn’t come to Gannon with intentions of later working with students. Her original undergraduate major was actually pre-law. Even up until the fall semester of her senior year, she was doing internships with senators and on track to graduate pre-law.
However, under the mentorship of a man by the name of Brian Nichols, who still works at Gannon, Coustillac found her true passion in the field of student engagement. In this portion of our discussion, I made a remark of how I could never imagine just completely changing my life plan in my senior year of college.
Coustillac then said something striking, “Why have a plan B when you can just make plan A work?” As a planner and a worrier, these words both terrified me and impressed me.
Coustillac also remarked how, at Gannon, she sees high-achieving, hard-working students. She feels that the university is ahead of the curve and provides students with an experience that will be truly impactful versus just aiming to produce good employees.
What many students may not realize is that the Office of Leadership Development and Student Engagement is responsible for many of their experiences on campus.
While many may not fully realize what Coustillac’s office does, it is in charge of shaping the student experience from orientation to the first six weeks that students spend at Gannon.
Beyond this, the office works to develop students as leaders through their experience.
It does this through programming such as the National Conference for Student Leaders (NCSL) as well as putting students through the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. This assessment helps students identify which areas of leadership they are the most naturally strong in.
In Room 200 of Beyer Hall, also called the collaborative space, students can find a collection of books titled the “Leadership Library” where they can sign out a number of books to help with leadership development.
All these efforts combine in order to help the Office of Leadership and Student Engagement reach its main goal of having students find their fit and grow as people.
Besides working in the Office of Leadership and Student Engagement, Coustillac is also the staff adviser for Gannon Student Government Association (SGA).
She said that what keeps her in this position with all her other responsibilities is that, in SGA, she sees students who want to learn and make the university better. She is also well-versed in working with SGA from being involved in the organization in her undergraduate years.
Coustillac said she has seen a number of significant changes occur at Gannon since her days as a student, both in terms of the facilities and the programs that have been made available.
She referenced how she has seen more opportunities such as T.R.A.V.E.L and ABSTs arise for students as well as how areas where classes once were held have been turned into offices, including her own office on the second floor of Beyer.
Coustillac mentioned that it is refreshing to see how many graduates are coming back to help, give back to the campus and even be employed at Gannon, such as herself.
Looking to the future, Coustillac said that she would like to see an outdoor adventure program arise that takes advantage of the many natural wonders that surround and are rooted in Erie such as Presque Isle and the Allegheny National Forest.
She also talked about an idea that she would love to see: a center on campus to help integrate majors. This would be an area where there could be experiential learning and majors of all areas could work together to combine their talents and skills into making products and ideas that revolutionize the future.
As for her favorite thing about Gannon, Coustillac said it was as simple as people holding the door. A simple gesture that also speaks volumes to an individual’s character.
It shows that they care about others and that they take time for the ones around them.
She also commented on how people say hello, how they aren’t afraid to stop on AJ’s Way to have a conversation with a friend and how people at Gannon take care of each other in the small moments of life, as those are the moments that speak louder than any large, extravagant action.
Coustillac has gone above and beyond what many would deem necessary in her position to give students the best experience.
However, when questioned why she does this and what keeps her motivated to keep doing it, she said that, to her, it doesn’t feel like she is doing anything extraordinarily above what she is supposed to.
She explained that she has found a job that combines her strengths, passions and purpose, so that what she’s doing doesn’t even feel like work at all.
As for what advice she would give to students who are looking to get more involved and build their leadership skills, she said that all they need to do is come up to Beyer 201 and she would do whatever she could for them.
However, other advice included being active on campus, reflecting and reading.
In building on the reflection piece of this advice, she said that students need to know themselves in order to lead themselves, that they need to ask “What can I do?” and, when it comes to things that they are feeling, it’s important to step back and ask themselves, “Why” in order to better discover who they are. Once they discover who they are, they are able to more freely develop as a leader for others.
By Katie Hamilton