Self-Quarantine: Week 1

A few days ago I, along with the rest of us students at UNC, received an email telling us that residence halls are officially closing and students should plan to move out ASAP. Coming to terms with the fact that my senior year will no longer be spent going to class on campus or participating in all the Carolina senior traditions has been tough. Some days are better than others but I’m not going to lie, occasionally I’ll think about it and get a bit teary-eyed. Similar to many Tar Heels, Carolina really had become my home away from home, I didn’t think they were serious when they said it during orientation 3 years ago. Sure it can get stressful and the classes are far from a “piece of cake” but I’ve learned so much, both about myself and academically. And I’ve had fun in the process. 

Now, I am officially moved out of UNC and preparing to start classes online. I am worried that I won’t be able to get the same experience since my classes are fairly hands-on, but I’m going to stay positive.

As some of you know, I work at the UNC Reese Innovation and Lab, and we have already begun working from home. My team has had two Zoom meetings so far and aside from barking dogs, meowing cats and little brothers watching tv in the next room, it’s been alright. 

I think the hardest part for all of us students will be making sure we stay focused and motivated. Based on my experience I am most productive working on campus or coffee shops around campus. I think that’s because I don’t usually go home unless the school is on a break of some sort. Let’s be honest, home is pretty distracting, especially under a self-quarantine when we can’t even escape to the local Starbucks or public library.

In order to combat this and prepare for a busier work week with classes and new projects at RIL, I’ve spent some of my free time planning and organizing next steps. I’d like to share a few things that I have done to make sure I stay on top of things during the rest of this unexpected, bitter-sweet, low-key scary, quarantined senior year.

  1. Clear up an area at home that can be used as a new workspace. I’m using the desk in my room. 
  2. Use a planner, or start a bullet journal (it’s also a fun quarantine pass-time). 
  4. Get in touch with classmates that you have projects with and set up a game plan. 
  5. Get in touch with co-workers and plan how work will get done what home and what projects need priority. 
  6. Be mindful, yes you are at home and campus is #canceled, but school isn’t. 
  7. Take care of yourself, be respectful and empathetic.

Creativity Assessment- Extra Gum

One of my favorite ad campaigns is the “Give Extra, Get Extra” Extra Gum campaign by BBDO. If you are an agency that asks “what is your favorite ad campaign and why?” in your summer 2020 internship applications, I’ve likely written to you about Extra Gum already. I like this campaign because each ad tells an emotional story using a piece of the product, the wrapper,  in a unique way. My two favorite ads out of the series are “the story of Sara and Juan” and “Origami.” 

I’m currently in an ad campaign class. We learn how to create a full campaign from top to bottom. In the process, our professor gives us in-class creativity assignments. One of the assignments we do frequently is predicting the effectiveness of an advertisement using a creative assessment scoring sheet. We rate the ad from 1-7 in regards to originality, flexibility, elaboration, synthesis and artistic value. This assessment was created by Robert Smith, a communications researcher from Indiana University. We then decide what advertising approach we think was being used. While this is a very subjective method to assess anything, it is an interesting process that allows you to think deeply about the ad.

For today’s blog, I thought it would be interesting to assess one of the Give Extra Get Extra ads to see if it rates high under all the dimensions. The one I will assess is “Origami.” This ad shows the journey of a dad and his young daughter growing up. The two go through different milestones. At each milestone, the dad gives his daughter an origami crane made out of the silver Extra Gum wrapper. In the last scene, the dad is packing a car indicating that his daughter is moving away. During this process, he drops a shoebox, hundreds of paper cranes fall out, and he flashes back in a montage of memories with his daughter and the paper cranes. 

Now, I did give this ad pretty high scores, and hey maybe I’m biased or maybe the ad deserved it. I’m going to say it deserved the scores for the reasons I will explain below. 

First, originality. I find this ad to be original because every gum ad I have seen focuses on the physical product benefits: taste, longevity, providing you with a fresh breathe. This Extra Gum ad, doesn’t focus on the physical gum at all, but rather the emotion and meaning behind the gum. It uses Extra Gum’s slogan, “Give Extra Get Extra,” and personifies it through its emotional storytelling. 

Second, Flexibility. The way stories are told is by stringing events and characters together to tell an overarching message. In this case, the story of the father and daughter is seamlessly being told, therefore, of course, it moves from one subject to another. The overarching message, in my opinion, is that Extra Gum helps you make memories. 

Third, elaboration. Each interaction between the father and daughter is essentially documented. The simplicity of folding the wrapper into little cranes and then having them all come together, in the end, shows a plethora of detail. I think that the ad is able to include more detail than expected because of the unique storyline that is not common among brands of gum. 

I ranked the aspects of the fourth dimension, synthesis, fairly low compared to the other dimensions for this ad. I did so because while I do believe the add is unique and creative, the connections are not unusual. 

In class, we watched an Evian ad, that included dancing and singing babies. You could make the connection to youthfulness, but I personally did find the dancing and singing babies to be an “unusual” connection in regards to water. When I assessed that add I gave it high synthesis scores. “Origami”, to me, was not “unusual.” 

Lastly, artistic value. I found the ad to be visually appealing and captivating. My professor mentions that an ad is good if you can eliminate either the audio or the visual and still receive the message. There is no dialogue in this ad, however, the music and the visuals tell the story well. 

•   Is the ad “out of the ordinary”? 
•   Does it depart from stereotypical thinking?       
•   Is it unique?       
•   Does the ad contain ideas that move from one subject to another?
•   Does it shift from one idea to another?      
•   Does it contain different ideas?      
•   Does the ad contain numerous details? 
•   Does it extend basic ideas and make them more intricate?       
•   Does it contain more details than expected?        
•   Does the ad connect objects that are usually unrelated? 
•   Does it contain unusual connections?       
•   Does it bring unusual items together?       
Artistic Value
•   Is the ad visually or verbally distinctive?
 •   Does it make ideas come to life graphically or verbally?      
•   Is it artistic in its production?       

*this chart was taken from MEJO 673 class assignment*

My Dog, Buddy

My best friend was abandoned at 11 weeks old and was found walking along a railroad track in the middle of nowhere, North Carolina. He has golden brown, short fur, droopy cheeks, and chunky paws. It was love at first Facebook picture. His name is Buddy and he’s a rescue dog.  

I’m sure there are tons of people who are obsessed with their pets, but today I want to share why I am and why Buddy is so special to me.

One year before adopting Buddy, my Great Dane named Nikko, passed away. He was the perfect dog. Well behaved, cute, silly, protective, smart. I could see it in his eyes that he loved us. I loved Nikko very much, but we adopted him when I was very young. I was excited but I don’t think I was mature enough yet to appreciate a dog as a pet. I took him for granted because he was always there. Until he wasn’t. 


 When Nikko became really sick he was talking about ten pills a day, I still have the alarms for each prednisone in my phone. His mind was healthy and alert. But unfortunately, his body was not. One day, he collapsed on the floor and couldn’t get back up. That’s when my parents decided it was time. After his death, I told myself and my parents that I never wanted another dog again because the loss hurt so much. Nikko’s death was the first death I ever experienced so close to me. 

My family and I constantly thought about Nikko.“Nikko would’ve loved being at the park with us right now.” “Remember when Nikko would stand on our feet.” “Remember when Nikko would try to sit on us like a lap dog.”

I still miss him and wish I could play with him one more time.

One year after Nikko passed away, my dad and brother slowly started to mention adopting another dog. My mom and I were skeptical. I was really sad after losing Nikko because I felt like he deserved more even though in my heart I know we took the best care of him. After a bit, my mom and I started to warm up to the idea of adopting again. She began looking for puppies online and she found this little brown dog with big paws, droopy lips and floppy ears. He was adorable.

My dad, brother, my three cousins and I took a trip to the rescue shelter he was in. I noticed him outside behind a gate as soon as we pulled into the driveway. “That’s him!” I said to my dad. We got out of the car and my cousins and brother ran off to the new litter of puppies that were in an area off to the side. I went straight toward the little 14-week old puppy.

He came up to me and my dad and was super excited with his tail wagging so hard his body was shaking. He had a cut where his head met his neck. The woman who ran the rescue shelter said he got that from trying to escape from his cage a couple of days before. My cousins and brother then ran over to see who I was playing with and the little dog was even more excited. Then the dog got bored and probably hot and walked back into his dog house. I Could not leave without him….. but dad said we had to. So we went home and I told my mom “Look I know we said we didn’t want to get another Dog after Nikko, but this one is soooooooo cute you have no idea.”

She was still skeptical, even though she technically picked him out herself online. Finally, after a ton of begging, she caved. On July fourth we went back to the rescue shelter picked him up and named him Buddy. I told my self that I would give this puppy all the love and attention I could and I’d do it for both him and Nikko. 

Buddy is a handful who has brought happiness into our lives, as most dogs do. I’m glad that we made the decision to get another dog because even though loss hurts, I’m grateful for the time we do get to spend with our pets.

Do You See an Outlet?

Carolina has taught me that there is yet another stress-inducing activity that a student has the opportunity to experience. Can you guess what it is? It is indirectly related to exams, essays, grades, deadlines, etc. If you’ve guessed “finding a place to sit on campus” you are correct! 

You know the drill, you have to get in the right headspace to start an assignment. Maybe you need a change of scenery, dead silence or some background noise? So you get out of your room to go on the hunt for a place to sit. More often than not you find yourself racing a stranger to an empty table near a coveted outlet, only to lose, sigh, turn around with what dignity you have left and search for another stranger to race.

After going through this process… way too many times… I like to think that I have figured out the key to success. Rather, I have figured out a few places to go and the best times to go to them. So today, I’m going to share my favorite indoor on-campus and off-campus places to go with you. 


  • Davis Library
    • If you are looking for a first-floor experience that is quiet with some small chatter, I suggest heading to Davis Library on a Friday or a Saturday morning. I always find it to be fairly empty on those days with high chances of finding a seat near an outlet. I would not recommend Davis Library during midterm/finals season or during a weekday. It is usually full to the brim and exudes anxiety. 
  • Park Library 
    • Media and Journalism majors, this one will mostly appeal to you. Park Library is Carroll Hall’s little library located on the second floor. It’s small but I always find a seat in there and all of the tables have multiple outlets. It’s not dead silent unless you go on Friday. But be aware that you will get kicked out at 4:30 pm on Fridays and 6:00 pm on weekdays. 
  • Student Stores 
    • I personally like the second floor of Student Stores, the area by the caffè, when I’m working on something that isn’t too intensive.  I would not go here during a weekend game day. There are waaaaaaaaay too many people then.  
  • Empty classroom in Murphey Hall 
    • One of the most difficult times to find a place to sit on campus is during finals week.It seems as though every nook and cranny of the entire campus is stuffed with a million students. If its finals week and you are one of those people who can’t find a spot, I recommend heading to Murphey Hall, located on the main quad of campus, and sitting in an empty classroom. The classrooms are fairly new, they have a computer, chalkboards, and are surprisingly empty most of the time. Murphey is a good place to go if you want to study with a group of people in a quiet and private place. 
  • Port City Java 
    • As someone who has lived on south campus for all four years, Port City Java is my place to go. The music is good, the #vibes are good and the ice…. they have the good ice, you know, the Chick-Fil-A ice. I like Port City Java because, for a coffee shop, it’s fairly quiet and it’s conveniently located for those days you want to get out of your room but you don’t want to be too far away from it. I recommend PCJ on rainy days. (It’s inside Chase Dining Hall). 


  • Open Eye Café
    • Unless you wake up at the crack of dawn, or maybe you camp outside all night to be the first one in the door, you will not find a seat in Open Eye on the weekend. However, it’s a good place to go on a weekday after class. Open Eye Café is a coffee shop in Carborro, Chapel Hill. When I go to Open Eye Café I sit there for hours and I’m able to get A LOT of work done. It can get loud, but the music they play helps me get into my own thoughts and be productive. I highly recommend this place. And if you want a drink rec., I would either go for a hazelnut latte with half the syrup or an iced matcha latte if you arent feeling coffee but want some caffeine. 
  • Panera in DurhamIf you have access to transportation, I recommend driving to Panera in Durham to get work done on Sundays. The wifi is fast, certain tables are near outlets and you can get lunch. It also removes you a little bit more from the college student crowd which can be refreshing at times. This is a recent discovery of mine and will likely become a Sunday regular for the time being.

Central Campus Map 

Billie Eilish’s Brother’s Girlfriend Inspired Me.

For someone who loves having notebooks, planners, and making lists, It’s hard for me to admit that finding a way to keep my “to-do’s” in one central location has been a challenge. I’ve tried sticky notes, both virtual and physical, writing in a planner, using the notes app on my phone, but nothing has stuck… until a week ago after I watched a YouTube video. 

I was watching a Claudia Sulweski video, a YouTuber I’ve followed for as long as I can remember. Her latest upload was a home update vlog. In it, she talked about painting her home, her latest projects, and her bullet journal. Immediately after the video, I searched for the blank graph paper notebook I received as a souvenir after visiting a New York ad agency,  pulled out my pencils, pens and highlighters and began crafting my very own bullet journal (Don’t get me wrong Claudia has mentioned bullet journaling before, but for some reason this particular layout she had resonated with me). 

 So far, it’s been perfect. 

I found that the reason I couldn’t stick to a method before this one was that they didn’t fit my needs. Sticky notes weren’t versatile enough, planners had premade layouts with sections I didn’t need, and my phone wasn’t something I could use in any setting without seeming rude. 

Bullet journals offer the benefit of customization. 

Right now, my journal mirrors Claudia’s except I’ve added a “notes” block at the bottom of each page. I use the notes section to jot down, ideas for blogs, random grocery items, or other reminders I think of throughout the day.

Not only has bullet journaling made me more organized, but it’s  also helped my time management. All my main tasks are laid out by the hour, which makes it easier for me to know when I should stop working on one thing and move on to the next.

 If you are like me,  have a busy schedule and want to be productive all day, I definitely recommend bullet journaling (its also a fun craft project). 

If you’re not sure where to start, I will provide a simple supplies list below based on products I would purchase for myself. All of the items are from Amazon.        

American Idol Favorites

Remember American Idol? Back when it was in its prime in the early 2000s. You know, back when everything was in its prime. Just Kidding, Just Kidding. Any who back to American Idol. I used to love that show. Mostly because it helped me make memories with my mom. She used to let me stay up late with her to watch it even though it aired on a school night. “Gabri, American Idol is about to start.” she’d yell from the kitchen to me while I was playing with my little brother in his room. Then she’d pop a big bowl of buttery popcorn. As soon as I smelled it I’d head for the living room and sit on the couch. After a couple minutes she’d join me. And the iconic theme music would begin.

The audition episodes of the show were fun to watch, but I liked the ones after that. Because then I could ask my mom if we could vote for a contestant on her old flip phone. She wouldn’t always say yes, but sometimes she would and thats what counts. I dreamt of the day I would get my own ticket to Hollywood. Then I grew up a little and realized “singing” was not a skill I’d be able to add to my resume. Even though I don’t live at home, when I go back my mom and I still watch the new seasons of American Idol together. As a show it’s not the same anymore. However, being with mom watching it still feels as fun as it used to. Lots of artists were discovered on that show back in the day. I wanted to name a few of my favorites here. 

Kelly Clarkson. The queen of American Idol. She is my mom’s favorite singer, and for good reason. Her vocals are amazing and she sings every song with passion. 

Carrie Underwood. I don’t regularly listen to country music, but “Before He Cheats” is iconic. 

Adam Lambert. Even though he didn’t win, he is my favorite American Idol. He has an interesting sound, he is an entertaining performer and his song “If I Had You” is extremely catchy. 

Jordan Sparks. Battlefield, Tattoo, One Step at a Time. Need I say more? 

Where Research and Tech Collide

Has your Chief Innovation Officer ever met you at Target while he was riding a robot segway? I’m an Innovation Fellow at UNC’s Reese Innovation Lab, and yes my Chief Innovation Officer has met me in Target riding a robot segway. 

Let me tell you about the UNC Reese Innovation Lab and why it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. I found out about RIL at the end of my junior year. I was on the hunt for an internship, applied to a few places, you know the drill. But it seemed like nothing I truly wanted to do was available. 

At the time, I was taking a creative strategy course at the Hussman School. (If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know that my goal is to be a strategist after graduation). I was talking to my professor about my dilemma and a couple of days later he told me to come to speak to him at the end of class. 

He said something along the lines of “hey, so I’m working on a project with the UNC Reese Innovation Lab, its similar to the work you’ve done for this class and if you are still looking for an internship I think this one would be a good one for you.” I was extremely interested and was put in contact with RIL’s Chief Innovation Officer. I had an interview and before I knew it I became an Innovation Fellow and RIL’s Market Researcher. I helped design and present the projects for our clients from top to bottom. I gained a great amount of experience and was able to learn from any mistakes I made along the way. 

However, RIL’s focus isn’t on market research, in fact, most of our work involves the application of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other emerging technologies (this explains the robot from earlier). What I love about being an Innovation Fellow is that I get to dip my toes in a variety of projects and am presented with many new opportunities. For example, a few weeks ago I was asked to help lead a design-thinking brainstorm session with a potential client. The other day I saw Alexis, the team’s Creative Content producer, taking pictures of Betsy, our PR Extraordinaire. I asked what was going on and they said they were working on photogrammetry. I was intrigued. So for the next week, part of my time at the lab was spent working with Alexis and Betsy on learning photogrammetry. Today, I found out I will be working on writing a script for a new video we are producing. 

Working in RIL is exciting and new every day. Being an Innovation Fellow has not only allowed me to grow as a researcher/strategist but also improve upon and learn a variety of skills.

PoP CulTuRe

Did you all watch the Grammy’s a couple of weeks ago? Billie Elish essentially won it all. How about Justin Bieber’s musical comeback on Saturday Night Live?  Oh, and did you see UNC v. Duke basketball game? How about the experimentation happening with online dating using artificial intelligence

Finally, a job exists where it’s ok, actually, it’s encouraged, to be aware of these things. Too many times have people been made fun of for Keeping up with the Kardashians. I’ll admit, I did stop paying attention to trends for a bit because of the #haters. But you see, when I realized that I wanted to be a strategist I also realized that it’s important for me to be “in-the-know.”  After all, the biggest part of being a creative strategist is understanding people. If I want to do my future job well I have to know what people like and what they don’t like. And if I don’t know it’s my responsibility to find out. A lot of cultural questions can be answered by paying attention to what’s popular.

When it comes to trends and pop culture my curiosity has been reborn. I have lots of questions. With that being said, I want to work on broadening my pop knowledge every day, so if you have a hilarious meme, a cool new tune, or even a tech tidbit please send it my way.  

I spent a week in the Desert of Texas without Wifi

No, this is isn’t a story about how at peace I felt without access to the outside world, although it definitely was very peaceful. Rather, I’m going to tell you about my time as a Geology minor in Big Bend, Texas through pictures. And let’s clear up one thing…. Geology is not “rocks for jocks” smh. 

It all started when I enrolled myself in GEOL 221- Geology of North America. The class was split into groups. The first half of the semester was spent learning about Big Bend’s geological history and the geological gaps in its history. Each group was given the task to come up with their own research project based on what we had learned.  My group’s research question was, “Is there evidence of Rio Grande Rifting in Big Bend National Park?”. We spent the week of spring break camping in the desert of Texas. Given geological maps of the desert, we were asked to plan out an entire research day dedicated to each of our groups’ research questions. The second half of the semester was spent conducting and synthesizing our research. If you’ve read this far, you are probably ready to see some pictures. So here they are.

(Scroll to the bottom for our final poster) 

PC: Gabri Mannino, shot on an iPhone

This is a picture I took sitting in the front seat on our way into the National Park. Half of my class is in the van pictured. The van rides were some of the most memorable moments of this trip. We played games and listened to podcasts about the earth. Most importantly we all became closer and that made the trip extra enjoyable.

PC: Gabri Mannino, shot on an iPhone

This is a picture I took looking out from the window of the Van. 

PC: Gabri Mannino, shot on an iPhone

This picture was taken while I was sitting on a mountain behind our campsite overlooking the Rio Grande River. 

PC: David Greenawald

Dr. Kevin Stewart is explaining the geology of the area we were about to visit. 

PC: David Greenawald

Following our Professor Dr. Kevin Stewart to Boquillas Canyon.

PC: Gabri Mannino, shot on an iPhone 

This a picture of me taking the strike and dip of a fault surface using a Brunton Compass. The stripes going up and down on the surface are called slicken lines. Slicken lines show the direction of motion of the fault surface.  

PC: Hailey Galit

While this doesn’t look steep from the angle it was taken, this is my friend Abby Fancher and I climbing up a gigantic landslide. One of the research groups needed to collect data from the top so we all climbed. Our lives would flash before our eyes each time we stepped on a rock that wobbled ever so slightly. Shout out to David Greenawald, our TA, who stuck by our sides and got us back down safely.

Final Research Poster presented at the 16th Annual Anadarko Student Research Symposium- 2018

Home or the Hill?

Today, I want to tell you how my journey to Chapel Hill taught me about making decisions for personal growth. 

My parents were raised in an extremely family-oriented culture. By default, they raised me the same way. I lived upstairs from my grandparents’ house until I was five years old. My family was always at the top of my mind. School was also extremely important to me, it was the only thing I felt that I was good at (but that topic is for another day). When the time came to apply to college the choice to me was clear, a university that was close to home. Sure going to college in a different city sounded cool, but my family was in Greenville. The university near me had a good honors college program that I could apply to and It gave me the option to live at home, or at least be close to home. It made sense to my parents too since when they were growing up the concept of moving away for college was foreign. So that’s what I did I applied to the Honors College at ECU

I was talking to a friend of mine one day during the senior application process and he asked me what schools I was applying to. I said “I’m applying to ECU,  they have a good program for what I want to study”- at that point it was Geology. He encouraged me to apply to other schools because according to him “it would be good for me to branch out.” I took his advice and decided to pick another school that stood out to me. I applied to UNC-Chapel Hill. 

I sent in both of my applications and waited for a response. First, I received an acceptance letter from ECU. Then, received a letter saying that I was waitlisted for ECU’s Honors College. I still had not heard from UNC. I started to get anxious and realized that if I didn’t get accepted, I would be kind of upset. It was a weird and unexpected feeling considering I had a pretty set plan. Then finally the letter came…on Connect Carolina. I got in. I was in pure shock and excitement…. but now I had to make a really big decision. Do I go to ECU and stay with my family who is the most important thing to me, or do I take a chance and move to Chapel Hill? Based on stories that I had heard from former students I knew that I would be a good fit for UNC. After weeks of back and forth, it was time to make a decision. 

Both schools had pros and both schools had cons. My parents encouraged me to choose what felt right. While I wanted to be around my family, deep down I thought “my friend is right, branching out would be good for me, being around new people, living on my own and being exposed to new perspectives would help me grow as a person.” I also thought “the decision to stay in Greenville would be driven by my family, not myself” which is neither a good or bad thing, but was a thought that was going through my head. 

I chose UNC. And I chose it for myself (after all, it is only two hours away which is a decent distance from home). I have grown immensely during my time here and I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to make that decision. 

I found that sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first as long as you aren’t hurting anyone in the process and as long as it’s towards something good.