As UNLV welcomed thousands of students returning for fall semester, Housing and Residential Life welcomed a new leader. Peter Gatto joined the Division of Student Affairs in August, overseeing four UNLV-operated residence halls that are home to roughly 1,800 students.
Gatto comes to UNLV from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, where he served as director of Housing and Residence Life. Before that, he was an assistant director at University of Nevada-Reno’s Housing and Residential Life program.
What inspired you to get into your field?
I always wanted to pursue a career in Student Affairs. Initially, I was hoping to secure a position in International Programs and support students wanting to study abroad. However, a position in housing and residential education presented itself. I applied, and received the position as a residence director.
From there, new and exciting opportunities presented themselves for me to grow in my field, and I tried to take advantage of each one. I enjoyed the opportunity to help and support students outside of the classroom. The fact that working in housing and residential education encompassed so much of students’ university experience was the most rewarding aspect.
On any given day, you could be engaging resident students with programming, community building, and creating a home away from home for them, which provides the foundation for their student success and, eventually, crossing the stage at graduation.
What are some misconceptions about Housing and Residential Life and its impact on students’ lives?
People who aren’t fully familiar with Housing and Residential Life don’t realize the variety of aspects involved in supporting a resident student. Ultimately, we are the students’ home away from home. This includes everything from creating a safe and secure space and a fully-functioning space from a maintenance and technology standpoint.
In addition, we are responsible for keeping students engaged organizationally, programmatically, and for offering academic support. In order to fully realize what Housing and Residential Life does to support students and help them succeed, one would need to immerse themselves in the experience.
Share some advice you give to new on-campus residents that will help them get the most out of their experience?
I would highly encourage residents to get involved immediately on campus. Connect with your resident assistant and find out what is happening around campus. Get involved with a student organization, intramural sports, or any campus group that will give you a chance to meet other students. Familiarize yourself with the physical layout of the campus and what all of your resources are and where they are located.
Tell us about a hobby or personal passion.
I love to travel abroad with family and friends. I was fortunate to live, work, and study abroad in Mexico, Italy, and the Caribbean. I learned a lot about myself through these opportunities, and each time I have grown from the experience. I was able to learn about other cultures, languages, and culinary experiences. Traveling has given me the chance to create once-in-a-lifetime memories with those closest to me.
What attracted you to UNLV, and what’s been the best experience you’ve had in Las Vegas?
I was very excited for the opportunity to work for a large and prestigious institution that serves a diverse student body. There is always something going on at UNLV for faculty, staff, and students. You are located in a premier destination, as well, with people from all over the world. I find this extremely exciting and very stimulating. Without question, the best experience I have had since relocating to Las Vegas was the opening of our residence halls and welcoming new and returning students.