RHA President Leads With a Greeting

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RHA President Leads With a Greeting

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By Aislinn Keely

If you see Robert Ylagan, FCRH ’19, around campus, he will likely give you more than smile. He will stop, take a moment to say hello and ask how your day is going before he continues about his own. Ylagan said he thrives on this kind of personal connection, and it has marked his time at Fordham.

While it may seem like a quaint practice, Ylagan said actively greeting people is an integral part of who he is and how he operates within the world.

“That’s an integral part of me I think, that I thrive off of positive social interaction with people,” he said. “I like to make new friends, I like to get to know new people.”

As Executive President of Residence Halls Association (RHA), Ylagan has spent much of this academic year cultivating new relationships. For that reason, he said so far, the experience has been incredibly rewarding.

“The best part about being president and being on RHA is the faces I get to see,” said Ylagan.

“That’s my favorite part about RHA, the relationships I get to build,” he said.

But Ylagan said he did not initially intend to step into the role.

“If you asked me my freshman year coming into RHA that I was going to be executive president, I would tell them, ‘Absolutely not,’” he said.

He entered RHA halfway through his freshman year and spent three election cycles running for executive board before winning the communications director position on his third attempt. Originally, he planned to leave his experience at that and dial back his commitments in his senior year. Instead, he did the opposite. He said his work as communications director helped him realize how passionate he was about meeting new people.

“I love what I do and I love what RHA has given me,” said Ylagan.

It has given him far more than a multitude of new relationships. Ylagan said his work in RHA has changed his leadership style. It drove him from a more eccentric mode of operation to a more careful organization.

He said his work with RHA has also helped him conquer public speaking anxiety. Part of the role of Executive President includes addressing a 70 person board on a regular basis. Ylagan said this was once a daunting task.

“Now it doesn’t faze me,” he said.

But before RHA, Ylagan learned leadership skills as the president of his high school’s orchestra. He was a passionate cellist, and while he said he has not kept up with it in college, he still listens to much of the classical music that inspired him.

Ylagan said Schostakovich remains a favorite. He loves the drive the composer brought to his music despite his struggle with depression.

“You can tell that he was still passionate about writing music through that,” said Ylagan.

Ylagan said his passion for developing relationships with people extends to his psychology major. Like his interest in what drove Schostakovich’s to overcome his struggles, he said he continues to find people’s motivations and inner workings fascinating.

“The reason why I’m a psychology major is because I love learning how people think and I love learning the reasons behind people’s actions, or the reason why people act the way they do or make the decisions that they do,” he said.

It goes hand in hand with Ylagan’s genuine interest in everyone he comes into contact with. He said it is part of what drew him to New York City from his native San Antonio, Texas.

“Everyone’s moving and everyone’s doing things, and I like to be doing things,” said Ylagan. “Also the fact that there’s such a diverse population…I love getting to know people from all walks of life.”