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USF student competes for roommate honor

Being a good roommate can take a little effort, but one student on campus thinks she has what it takes to be the roommate of the year.

Michelle Gerston, a senior majoring in theater design, is a Top 12 finalist for the 2011 Roommate of the Year award. The national contest, which is in its third year of operation, will award the grand-prize winner the title of Roommate of the Year, $10,000 toward rent for a year and an additional $10,000 to spend freely after voting ends July 31.

Gerston’s video entry, entitled “Domestic Dream with Ecosheen,” features Gerston as a 1950s style homemaker with an environmentalist’s sensibility. In the video, which opens with Glen Miller’s 1942 hit “String of Pearls,” she cleans with eco-friendly products, recycles and replaces “all your old, incandescent (light bulbs) with energy saving, compact fluorescents.”

If she wins, Gerston said she would use most of the prize money on rent and save the rest, though she could splurge a little.

“(My boyfriend and I) would buy passports, because we don’t have them yet,” she said. “We’re going on a cruise to the Caribbean. We’re going anyway, whether we win or not, but if we win we’ll stay seven days instead of four.”

Gerston shot the video with the aid of her boyfriend Matthew Milton, a senior majoring in history who provided the voiceover for the video entry. It’s not the first time the two have teamed up on a video contest, having won’s Summer 2010 Free Textbook Giveaway video contest.

“In the summer we have a lot of free time,” Gerston said.

Despite their success, Milton said he is not a fan of video making.

“I’m not so into the whole video thing, I don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for it,” he said. “Once we get going, though, I’m mostly setting up shots like when she is wiping down the window and she was smiling. I told her to make a really, really creepy smile.”

Gerston and Milton used a Canon SD 780s point-and-shoot camera, which only shot video in 30-second increments, to create their contest entry. For a scene where Gerston rotates like a car in a showroom, the two got creative.

“I got up on a chair, we stacked it really high with pillows and I got a big push off the wall,” she said. “It was a little dangerous.”

Gerston’s roommate Emily Hall, a senior majoring in biology, said Gerston is a good roommate. The two share a two-level apartment off campus in St. Moritz Townhome.

“She’s really respectful of our shared space. She keeps everything clean and she doesn’t leave dishes in the sink,” she said. “I’ve had experiences with roommates who always left dishes in the sink and it’s very frustrating – she doesn’t do that.”

When the two shared their home with two roomates that were difficult to live with in the fall semester, Hall said Gersten took the lead on getting out of a one-year lease, finding takers for all four subleases. Now, Hall said coming home is “a totally de-stressed experience.”

Gerston said she is using Facebook to encourage friends and family to vote for her video at once per day before polls close July 31.

The grand prize winner will be decided by online poll numbers, weighted 60 percent, and a judging panel qualified in marketing, weighted 40 percent. The top four entries after the grand prizewinner will get $500 each.