Translating Extracurricular Experience Into Public Service Work: Katie Cristol & Steve Giballa

Katie Cristol & Steve Giballa

“My extracurricular activities at UVA, possibly more than my academics, perfectly prepared me for my career path now.”

Steve (‘06) and Katie (‘07) met at UVA when they both participated in a production of Shakespeare on the Lawn. Now, over fifteen years later, they both credit acting as playing a big role in their careers in public service and government. 

“I think for both of us, our involvement in theater led us on the paths to where we are today,” explained Steve, an attorney in the Office of the Chief Council for the United States Secret Service. He focuses on cyber law and general litigation. Steve explained that his job is somewhat “performative.” When presenting a case in front of a judge and litigants, he thinks about “delivering words in the best way to communicate fairly and clearly, and to create an emotional response.” Steve learned many of those communication skills as an actor in his extracurricular involvements at UVA.  

Katie, one of five municipally elected officials for the Arlington County Board, is appreciative of the role that club involvement played in her time at UVA. “My extracurricular activities at UVA, possibly more than my academics, perfectly prepared me for my career path now.” Katie was the president of University Democrats, active in UVA theater, and a member of the Chi Omega sorority. “All three of those things,” Katie explained, “are focused on politics and making people like and trust you, which is the role of a public official.” She also credited her time as the leader of University Democrats with teaching her about management and mediation. “As the leader of any club or organization, you have to learn to manage peoples’ competing ambitions or plans.” She joked, “nothing prepared me better to run a local government campaign-- with all of the handshaking and smiling-- than sorority rush.” 

When asked about what advice they had for current UVA students and recent graduates, Steve and Katie encourage students to understand that you might not land your dream job immediately after college-- and that’s ok. “Your first job can sort of be a comedown,” Katie explained. “UVA gives you such extraordinary opportunities. I was in charge of a 500 member organization and had a column in the school paper and all of a sudden all I was really good for was scheduling somebody’s meetings.” Now, Katie manages a staff, makes public appearances, engages with constituents, and represents Arlington County to the rest of Virginia. “My actual career was a little bit of a winding path,” Katie explained. Ultimately, the courses she took “for fun,” and her extracurricular activities had a huge impact on her marketable skills and career and, not to mention, her life partner!