It is not unusual for Gabe Kiefel to receive individual concerts from music students on the job. Keifel believes that he has received more individual concerts than anyone he knows. Kiefel, a Whitman security guard and alumni, always takes the time to listen to students eager to preform their music because his favorite part of his job is his interactions with students.
Gabe Keifel is a security guard with a unique perspective: He went to Whitman and graduated in 2009.
“Having been a student I have a bit of insight into what the pressures are that students are going through,” said Keifel. “Almost every interaction I try to remember how it feels to be a student.”
Keifel was a biology major and originally thought he wanted to become either an occupational or physical therapist. While he was at Whitman and after graduation, Keifel worked as a rehab technician at various rehab facilities in the area. But Keifel quickly realized that he did not want to pursue therapy of any sort.
He had connections with the security office during his time at Whitman because he worked as an escort. When a job opened up for a night security guard, Terry Thompson, the director of the security office, encouraged Keifel to apply. Keifer, looking for a change in scenery and a pay raise to support his growing family, took the job and stated working at Whitman as a nighttime security guard in October of 2010, just over a year after he graduated.
“There is a change in point of view, [but] ultimately my personality has stayed the same. I still feel like a student of sorts, despite having a different role,” he said. “I think starting out as a security officer I might have been more assertive because I wanted to define that I was a staff member rather than a student and at that time there were students I had had classes with and played sports with and interacted with. I don’t think I wrote anybody up more frequently but I tried to be more business at that time.”
Keifel found the transition from student to staff fairly smooth because he feels that he had a very unconventional Whitman experience.
Keifel transferred to Whitman from the community college his junior year through a program called Running Start. Although Keifel was involved in rugby, intramural sports and Greek life on campus, he didn’t have a traditional college experience.
“Despite having gone to school here and wanting the semblance of a college experience, I guess I’ve always kind of been an outsider looking in,” he said.
He came to Whitman with a very different perspective from most other students. Keifel was born and raised in Waitsburg and attended Walla Walla Community College for two years. After the end of his junior year at Whitman he married his high school girlfriend, and he only lived on campus for one semester and spent a lot of time off campus.
Keifel believes that the fact that he was married and that he transferred from the community college changed the dynamic of his Whitman experience. His short time at Whitman was a whirlwind, and he spent his first year feeling like a freshman all over again and his second writing his thesis and trying to fulfill all of the biology requirements in two years.
“I think I would have liked more time here seeing as I only had two years, but realistically, since I graduated I haven’t gone anywhere, so I’ve kind of had that non-traditional college experience without the same stress of having classes here,” he said.
For Keifel, who loves talking and interacting with people, interactions and conversations with the students are what make his job and Whitman in general so interesting. When he first transferred to Whitman he says he was “inspired by the caliber of students I interacted with here.”
He often initiates conversations with students in order to foster a positive relationship between security and students and make his job more interesting. Keifel, although in a position of authority, seems to prefer to be on the same level as students, just having a good conversation, person to person, instead of security guard to student. Yet Keifel still has the responsibility to enforce the college’s policy, and often that entails calling people out for breaking the rules.
“I will talk to anybody, in fact I do talk to anybody; it’s just something I learned at an early age. Sometimes the problem at hand gets in the way of positive interactions with people that I’m happy to be around,” he said. “Despite trying to approach it in a positive way, there is always the potential of it turning negative and just that potential is difficult and stressful because my personality is more positive.”
Although the job can be difficult at times, Keifel looks at it from the perspective that it’s the school’s policy, and it is just his job to enforce it. By taking the approach of saying that he is just doing his job, Keifel has found that he can successfully distance himself from feeling like the bad guy all the time for calling students out.
“If students or anybody else can acknowledge that it’s not me, it’s them really, then it’s a little bit helpful,” he said. “It’s an interesting disposition because whether or not someone has a personal opinion about whether it’s right or wrong is irrelevant. There’s a policy that the college has and if we didn’t enforce that policy it would become a major problem.”
While he remains an outsider looking in, Keifel has found that even though he had an unconventional Whitman experience he can still empathize with students.
“When I was a senior writing my thesis that was the most stressful time in my life,” he said. “I try not to add more stress to [students’] lives while still doing my job.”