Senior Spotlight: Garrett Raver

student leading campus tour, laughing with tour participants holding yellow folders and walking past a building
Garrett Raver served as a student coordinator for the University of Oregon’s Student Ambassador Program. He spent a lot of time giving tours to perspective students as part of his job. “They get more interested, and they see that this is a place they can call home. That’s what makes the job so much more fun.”

Welcome. What’s your flag?

Garrett Raver played a role in sharing the benefits of the UO with prospective students. He relied on symbols to spread the word. 
Story by Stephanie Metzger
photos By Ilka Sankari
Clark Honors College Communications

Whenever prospective students enter the Student Welcome Center in Unthank Hall, there was always a pretty good chance they’d be greeted by Garrett Raver.

The Clark Honors College senior served in several roles with the UO Student Ambassador Program, reaching the top position as student coordinator this year.

In his role, Raver worked directly with a variety of organizations on campus. A self-described curious person, he has always been passionate about staying up to date with everything happening around campus. 

“If you were giving a tour and you brought up a group that’s particularly interesting to someone, their faces light up,” says Raver. “They get more interested, and they see that this is a place they can call home. That’s what makes the job so much more fun.” 

portrait of garrett raver with leafy background

Garrett Raver

Major: Political science
CHC thesis: “Flagging Nationalism: The Power of Flags in Sovereign Incorporation and Separatism”
Coffee or tea: Coffee, any day of the week. It’s always coffee.
Favorite movie: “A Beautiful Life” because my grandmother was born in a labor camp, so there are historical ties that I particularly have to that time period. 
This summer, I can’t wait for: The Fourth of July and the summer Olympics.
Describe your experience at the CHC: Incredible. I’ve honestly loved my entire time at the CHC because it’s given me the opportunity to develop all these skills.
One decision that made all the difference: Choosing Oregon 
Advice on the thesis project: Follow your passions, no matter what they are. 
Advice to incoming first-year students: Don’t be the person who says no before an opportunity comes up.
What I’ll miss most about the CHC: The camaraderie, and the growing and learning environment
I’m grateful for: The opportunities that UO has given to me.
Where I’m headed next: UO School of Law 

Symbols of belonging

On his tours and in his life, Raver finds connections through symbolism. He recalls being drawn to Oregon because of how the university represented itself through a fun mascot, the Duck.

student in green shirt talking to tour group on campus and gesturing
Raver found a home in the student ambassador program and says he will miss the job next year. “The ambassador program and having these campus partners come in to us has become my comfort area,” he says.

He says symbols, like mascots and flags, are important because they can represent a piece of someone’s history. “One of the first things that I brought over was a flag from Chicago,” he says of when he first arrived in Eugene from Illinois. “That is one thing that I was like ‘This is cool, and this is a large part of who I am.’”

And it’s more than where you come from, he says. It’s also about how you connect with others.

“Those small little moments have large impacts on what you believe,” he says. “Politically, if I believe one thing and someone else on the other side of the spectrum believes something else, we still have this one symbol that we can imbue our own specific thoughts and feelings into.”

Raver, the youngest of four brothers raised in Illinois, was the first child in his family to leave the Midwest for college. When he arrived in Eugene, he quickly felt at home, mostly because of the people. But he found a physical connection to his state: white oak trees on campus that were imported decades ago from Illinois.

“I realized really soon after I got here that there’s a little piece of home right here on our campus,” Raver says. 

Understanding the reach of politics

He’s always been interested in history and politics. He says part of that comes from having a Polish grandmother who was born in a German forced-labor camp.

“Because there was such a rich and difficult history for some of my grandparents, it made me think about the historical areas in which they had existed,” he says.

“I always think that UO is so much bigger than my legacy of being here, but I also get to show through my thesis, as well as through my work, that I’m a part of the UO now.”   

As a political science major, Raver found that politics was a way to understand the needs of people from a variety of populations.

“Politics influences everything and being able to find where those cross-sections are has really made it so that any classes I’m taking allow me to explore all those niches I like,” says Raver. 

He’s also had hands-on experience. During his sophomore year of college, he was an intern for Dawn Lesley, then a candidate for the West Lane County Commissioner, representing parts of Junction City, Veneta and rural areas toward the coast. She lost her election, but Raver said the internship was important to him and his development.

“It was super helpful to see, even on a small scale, how much mobilization there needs to be behind all these different groups and all these different ideas coming together,” he says. 

Leaving a lasting impact

When it came to writing his thesis, Raver considered his lifelong interest in history and politics and took inspiration from his classes. His project examines how symbols of representation, specifically flags, contribute to national sovereignty movements and political action.

Raver recalls people questioning his topic, saying things like “Oh really, flags.” But he stuck with the topic because of support from professors. He attributes a lot his success to the fact that he was passionate about it all the way through. 

“People don’t understand how much they care about the symbolism that surrounds them and I’m hoping that this sheds a little more light on that kind of interaction with the benign symbols in our lives,” he says. “All of these nations have their own unique stories and uncovering that and putting a kind of artistic spin on it is why I wanted to talk about the symbolism behind it.” 

student tour guide in green shirt talking to a group and gesturing
Each student ambassador personalizes their tours. On his, Raver highlighted the different trees species around campus because of their historical significance. The trees, like UO students, have come from all over the world, he says.
student tour guide in green shirt talking to a group holding yellow folders
Raver’s presentations and accountability in his job earned him the coveted the UO Dean’s Award for Service for 2024. Raver had a hand in training nearly half of the current student ambassadors.

Kelin Humbert worked with Raver as a student coordinator for the ambassador program. She attended his thesis defense and came away inspired by his work, saying it connected to their jobs on campus.

“All these families that are flying or driving to come on a campus tour have such a different story about why they are coming to UO or why they’re interested in it,” she says. “So, you get to really find out about these people and dive deep.”  

Being a student coordinator helped Raver earn a coveted UO Dean’s Award for Service because of the impact he has made on the community and how well he has represented the university. 

In the fall, he plans to attend the UO School of Law. He says he doesn’t know yet exactly what kind of law he wants to practice but welcomes the new challenges and opportunities.

“I want to take some time to get my own bearings and figure out what are going to be the things that I am going to be most passionate about going forward,” Raver says. “I get to spend three more years here and I love it here” 

black line drawing of a graduation cap and tassel

Read more about the class of 2024