Introducing David Robakidze, 2019-2020 SGA Executive President
(Photo provided by David Robakidze)
Whether he’s raving about the tuscan sandwich’s delightful balsamic dressing or laughing with you about Skid the mascot’s quirky social media presence, it is clear to see how David Robakidze’s ‘20 Skidmore-style charisma won over much of the community in his past three years. The campus band Drobakid was even named after his email address.
And now, serving as the 2019-2020 Executive President of the Student Government Association (SGA), Robakidze is the student you would least expect to have once felt so out of place at Skidmore.
An international student from Tbilisi, Georgia, Robakidze recalled the feeling of first leaving the surroundings he knew all his life — including family and friends who would “literally [take] a bullet for you” — to a distant community where everyone already seems to know everyone else.
While his childhood dream of attending an American college kept him going, breaking into friend groups based in the “just outside of Boston” or “just outside of New York City” areas was a relentless obstacle. He explained how his local jokes and stories just didn’t mesh with students who have spent their whole lives practicing American culture.
While he was the only student from Georgia, Robakidze found solace with people at the international student pre-orientation who were also trying to figure it all out while far away from home.
“They were there with me while we were doing this whole, ‘Hey, I’m a freshman, and it’s so nice to meet you, like, tell me more about everything right now.’ That gave me confidence that I firmly believe is still following me to this day. If not for that particular group of four or five people, I would have been different. I love my friends,” he reflects.
The future International Affairs major branched out to political clubs such as Model UN and — you guessed it — SGA, the organization which would come to define his time at college. But he still remembers what it felt like when so many people didn’t speak his language, both figuratively and literally.
When asked to list his top values as a leader, Robakidze placed loyalty as number one. Indeed, he remains loyal to how he felt his first year and the friends who made a difference, basing many presidential plans on helping others feel a sense of community and belonging at Skidmore.
One matter on Robakidze’s mind speaks particularly to community — the Thanksgiving and winter break dilemma. For many international and domestic students who stay on campus, a time meant to be spent with friends and family becomes a period that feels frozen in time. The campus is a ghost town, the weather follows typical upstate New York fashion, and family can only be reached through scattered and flat Skype calls.
Robakidze even mentioned problems with food accessibility for some on-campus students. With D-Hall operating on irregular hours and regular dining out in Saratoga expensive, Robakidze is searching for practical solutions: “How can we work on that? What are some of the programs that we can work around, like potentially opening up the test kitchen? Providing some type of scholarship?”
While he currently offers more questions than answers regarding what form these programs will take, he, Malchijah Hoskins ’22, the Vice President for Inclusion and Outreach, and Abby Ciccarone ’22, the Vice President for Financial Affairs, are making sure scholarship funds do not come from financial aid or club funding. He also intends to stay on campus for both breaks this year in order to hone his understanding of students’ financial and social issues.
Robakidze also hopes to encourage togetherness through a newly designated community space, similar to the Intercultural Lounge. He explained that the exchange closet on the second floor of Case Center is being remodeled to serve as a location for hosting general discussions or activities, and as office space for a new student employment opportunity in collaboration with the Committee of Intercultural & Global Understanding (CIGU).
With the school currently seeking out a new Director of Student Diversity Programs after Latisha Barnett stepped down last semester, Robakidze and the CIGU want to introduce employment for students to engage in social justice and advocation work alongside the new director.
“I’ve been trying to find ways to offer opportunities for students to not only work on campus but gain other types of experience that would be a resume builder, but would also contribute to their sense of getting something accomplished in terms of their academics,” he says.
While Robakidze aims for these positions to be paid, he believes the educational and professional experience are still invaluable takeaways if on a volunteer basis.
Robakidze is also well aware of the posters describing how about three-fourths of student employees are dissatisfied with their wage, and as SGA is intended to represent the student body, he’s working on advocating for and passing resolutions that formally capture much of the student frustration surrounding the disparity.
He’s quick to mention that this to-do list is by no means exhaustive. As the school year progresses and more issues surface, he wants to work with SGA members and the general student body to develop insightful, planned out solutions.
Indeed, Kale Howard ’22 hopes to see Robakidze fortify SGA’s bond with the student population.
“I want to see more transparent and accessible communication between SGA and the wider Skidmore community. I think involving and informing the students about SGA decisions will have a huge impact on our school and allow people to really start feeling like their voices are heard,” she explains.
Skidmore politics aside, Robakidze brims with gratitude for the many community members who have made the campus feel like “a second home” to him. He praised ex-SGA Executive President Max Fleischman not only as being a hard-working, intelligent leader, but, perhaps most importantly, as a loyal friend people could turn to. As Robakidze advises, sometimes the most impactful leadership trait one can embody, in all its empathy and support, is the simple act of “[being] a good friend” in your community.