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Leadership Highlight: San Diego State University’s Associated Students President Christian Onwuka

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate universities  across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to San Diego State University and did an interview with Christian Onwuka the Associated Students President.

The position of Associated Students President president of a is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Onwuka, who is majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance, is a current senior and a Spring 2016 initiate of Phi Beta Sigma.

We interviewed Onwuka, and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2020.

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an Associated Students President so far? 

As our Associated Students President, I’ve learned the importance of adaptability. I served as the Vice President of Financial Affairs last year, and oversaw a $35 million dollar budget; however, I stayed in my lane and didn’t need to be flexible over my departments. As President, I’m overseeing my Vice Presidents and in turn, I have to approach each one differently based off their life experiences, their leadership styles, and their personalities. The experience of managing other leaders I think has given me the ability to succeed in my professional future.

What made you decide to attend San Diego State University for undergrad? 

I was blessed to earn a Presidential Scholarship from San Diego State entering my freshman year, so that removal of a financial burden played a big part, as I come from a single mother household. Additionally, I have a younger brother who looked at me as a role model, and I saw this as an opportunity to expose him to college life and higher education as a whole, to show him that it’s possible and inspire him to reach and surpass me when the time comes for him.

How has San Diego State University molded you into the person you are today?

San Diego State has helped me grow as a person, as being a Black student leader at a PWI, it exposes you to circles you never knew existed and opportunities that are priceless. What I learned was, I’m good at being myself, and never letting the position, or the power consume me. With me looking to get into the corporate world, the experiences I’ve had, from raising over $95,000 to donate to our local food bank to establishing the campus’s Black Resource Center, I’ve learned that my work can speak for itself, and it’s okay to keep your true essence and character on the forefront.

What specific initiatives have you headed up this year and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?

I have had the opportunity to provide student perspective on our campus wide strategic planning committee, while also advocating to appoint students on different sub committees so that our university strategic plan is composed for the students and by the students. Additionally, I have created an endowment plan to help provide financial assistance to our students in response to an increase of upcoming student fees. I think the strategic plan itself will give SDSU a new image and new brand, and attract diverse students to attend the university, and the endowment plan will help retain students, lowering the financial responsibility both these students and their families face.

How is your school currently responding to the coronavirus and what is your administration doing to help students?

We switched to virtual class sessions and tele work for as many students as possible, and our student government has had the opportunity to be involved in many high level conversations in regard to response. As President of our Associated Students, I have had conversations with our University President and her Vice Presidents multiple times to let them know the stress and pressures that us students are facing, and what we need in the idea of support.

How is the coronavirus affecting Associated Students elections for next year? 

We were able to move forward, and elect a new administration for next year; elections were all done online, and we were able to stream all debates for our executive officers. The only thing truly limiting us is the transitions, as we like to do in person transitions and face to face meetings, but we are still getting the job done.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me is understanding that recognition is not important, and that I don’t have to be the person to get the job done. Leadership is adopting the mindset of “Lift As We Climb”, setting the stage and breaking down barriers for future student leaders of color to do much more than I was able to. Additionally, leadership means bring my morals, my values, my beliefs and exemplifying them through my work, which I feel like I have succeeded in doing.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2020?

I think schools need to understand the importance of streamlining information across all social media platforms to appeal to their largest stakeholders, which are the students. If schools can learn to use these platforms effectively, I think we will see an increase in the amount of students that buy in, not only to the university, but to their upcoming projects and initiatives as well.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture? 

It showcases the true Black excellence in higher education, through the various outlets that we as Black students express that excellence. We talk about unity, but platforms like Watch The Yard embody that true meaning, and gives us a foundation in which we can continue to support each other.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

I plan on going into the workforce, working as a Financial Analyst for about 2 to 3 years. After that, I hope to go get my MBA with a concentration in Global Finance; at the moment, I’m also considering entering a joint degree program to also obtain my law degree. I do plan on becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 business, and I feel like these next steps would put me in the perfect position to achieve this.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Christian Onwuka for his work as the Associated Students President of San Diego State University.

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