Filling His Shoes

Olivia Hernandez with San Diego Mayor Kevin Falcolner

THE POWER OF COMMUNITY PROVES INSPIRATIONAL

USD President for a Day Olivia Gonzalez '17“Good morning, Madame President,” my coach enthused, shaking me from my early morning daze. Then, after introducing Dr. Harris as the newest (temporary) addition to USD’s cross country and track team, I began relieving him of his executive duties, attempting to fill his shoes while he ran in mine.

Over the span of the next 10 hours, my day was filled with back-to-back meetings and discussions with community members from USD and beyond our campus. After giving a presentation to the San Diego City Council, hosting seven meetings, a luncheon, a fireside chat, and participating in two interviews, I emerged from my presidency exhausted, and in awe of Dr. Harris’s ability to juggle his workload.

Through this experience, I gained far more than a better understanding of the responsibilities that come with being a university president: What I ultimately gained was inspiration and hope. Acting as president exposed me to our university’s complex ecosystem, and allowed me to witness and experience the power of diversity in action. In all of my meetings, I was impressed with how much the diverse university staff cares about improving the quality of students’ living and learning environments.

The most inspiring meeting of the day, however, was my luncheon with student leaders.

I met with students representing a wide variety of campus organizations: Associated Students, Torero Program Board, Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, Nonprofit Club, Homeless Outreach Student Transition Program and the Student Changemaker Committee. Together, we started a dialogue about the ways in which USD students can become more educated about, and involved in, tackling issues of food insecurity on our campus and in our surrounding communities.

I was inspired as I listened to these students expressing a clear passion for developing a campus community that is thoughtful, inclusive and involved. They proposed innovative and insightful ideas to value the experiences, promote the dignity and ensure the quality of life of all individuals on our campus, in San Diego, and globally. I walked away from that meeting deeply moved to see how powerful the collaboration of diverse, impassioned and compassionate individuals can be.

Overall, through my interactions that day with faculty, staff, students, administrators and community members, I was reminded that when individuals from diverse backgrounds come together in spaces where their perspectives and experiences are heard and validated, real, positive and lasting change can occur. Everyone has something unique and valuable to bring to the table, and the more individuals who are offered a seat, the richer the discussion and the outcomes will be. We are an institution of student-led change, where efforts are driven by a compassionate desire to build an inclusive campus, city and world.

Now that I have graduated, I want to encourage those of you (lucky!) ones with more time at USD: Whoever you are and whoever you are becoming, your voice matters and you have a seat at the table here. Whatever you care about in our chaotic, modern world, you can be the Changemaker that makes a difference.

— Olivia Gonzalez ‘17 / 2017 President for a Day

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