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Humans of Oxford: Garrett Gust: Finding his niche


Leaning forward in his chair, light blue ball cap settled over his shoulder length brown hair, Garrett places his hand on the brown, wooden, circular table in front of him.

"This is my place," he said.

Joining his hand on this table are a collection of paints, a teapot and varying types of water bottles. A slinky is suspended from the ceiling above them.

Rewind three years to when Garrett was a direct admit into the Business Economics program, walking through campus on a "Make It Miami" day. This was the place he would call home, but when asked why he came up blank.

"I have no idea," he admitted.

"I liked the trees," he remembered.

"Red brick is pretty charismatic," he added.

So a year later, Garrett became a student at the Farmer School of Business. But then he became unsure that Miami was the place for him and unsure of what to study. He began to consider transferring to other schools that looked more at home to him.

Back to the present, Garrett is the student activities coordinator for the Western Program -- the same program he graduated from last spring in an area of study that finally fit his passion.

And he created it.

Science Communications is its official title, but mostly Garrett just calls it "hippie shit."

He studied how to bring the science of sustainability to people that think it's just that -- hippie shit.

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"[Sustainability] is not just really big trees," he explained. "It's something much bigger than that."

He was able to do this in the Western Program, where he found his niche. It was a learning that promoted questioning and challenging thoughts, and it gave him the freedom to take the classes he was interested in, not just the ones required on a DAR.

"This place is special," Garrett said.

He found it so special that after graduation he stayed, in a job designed for people like him -- those who want to give back.

Now, he works every day assistant teaching or promoting community within the Western Program. Various events and traditions are unique to the program, many of which Garrett was a part of. The most scenic by far is "The Bird Wall."

When entering the Western students' lounge, people are greeted by an array of objects and happenings, but "The Bird Wall" is unmissable. A collection of detailed illustrations -- some geometric, some cartoonish, some very artistically detailed -- they all have one thing in common: they are all birds.

It all started with one student's painting of a Kingfisher bird, which inspired Garrett to paint his own bird. And the collection has grown.

He says that he simply has pushed his love for birds onto other people.

"I'm a Bird Evangelist," he claims. "But you have to look at [the wall] from a couple of steps back."