Hail to the Chief

USD President for a Day Miguel Hornedo sits at the president's desk as he begins his duties


“We have to be open and welcoming to everyone,” USD senior and President for a Day winner Miguel Hornedo stated with conviction to a group of university administrators gathered before him.

May 10, 2022 was a very busy day for Hornedo, 27, a Psychology major, Theology minor, assistant at the USD Commuter Commons and, for the next eight hours, president of the University of San Diego. He sat confidently at the head of a wooden table inside an office in Founders Hall, flanked by five members of the Mission Integration division.

Dressed in a pressed black suit, white shirt and a Torero Blue USD tie — a present from USD President James T. Harris III PhD — Hornedo boldly described his vision.

“For me, the Horizon Project is my biggest passion,” he told them. “We need to recognize and appreciate diverse identities. I want to change as many minds as I can today so that we can change more minds together.”

The Horizon Project is designed “to move USD into the forefront of Catholic higher education by following Pope Francis’ guidance that, as a Catholic community, we must be more open, expansive and welcoming.” For Hornedo, the project goes beyond providing scholarship and academic opportunities to underserved populations.

“USD as an institution in San Diego owes the San Diego community help and aid to its most complicated issues: issues of race, poverty and food security,” he said.

President for a Day began in 2016 as an annual event with the goal of giving interested undergraduate students the opportunity to serve as university president. Hornedo was selected out of a pool of more than 30 applicants. The application process for the program includes questions about extracurricular activities, student affiliations and leadership qualities, as well as an inquiry into a specific issue each candidate would like to address at USD.

Hornedo is a first-generation Mexican-American college student and also identifies as a commuter student — another topic that’s he’s deeply passionate about. The Commuter Commons, located in the Hahn University Center, is its own mini-community, a place where students who don’t live on campus can relax, study and meet peers who also make their daily trek to campus.

But Hornedo believes the space is in need of additional resources to grow and meet the needs of USD students without a personal space like a dorm room or apartment. This group of students are often at a disadvantage, a message Hornedo communicated to several important figures around campus throughout his day as top boss.

“We need to create a level playing field for all students,” he said.

Following his morning meeting with Mission Integration, President Hornedo headed to his office in the Hughes Administration Center, where he met his new staff and reviewed his daily schedule. He sat momentarily in his chair, commenting on how it was much more comfortable than his usual desk chair, before pausing  to admire his new nameplate.

A quick cup of coffee followed before it was time to continue on with his whirlwind journey.

Throughout the day, Hornedo met with leaders from Undergraduate Admissions, University Operations, University Advancement and the Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action.

He was tasked with several presidential responsibilities, including reviewing an undergraduate application, receiving updates on the master plan of an upcoming capital project, and touring the Linda Vista neighborhood to learn more about USD’s growing partnerships with organizations like the Bayside Community Center and Montgomery Elementary School.. He also got a crash course in the food scene, urban agricultural opportunities and a new community housing development that makes Linda Vista one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in San Diego.

“I see my family and my culture represented in Linda Vista,” Hornedo said. “It’s important that USD continues to be a good neighborhood partner.”

Along with the perks of being President for a Day, Hornedo also had the opportunity to enact real change. During lunch, he presented university administration with a $1,000 check, which the university will donate on his behalf to the San Diego Hunger Coalition.

During an afternoon meeting with USD Trustee and Professor of Practice Tom Lupfer, Hornedo was able to advocate for his peers — including two of his best friends — in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. He convinced Lupfer to renew his annual donation of $5,000 to each of three student organizations — the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

The funding will help off-set the cost of engineering students hoping to attend important conferences that will broaden their professional network.

Finally, Hornedo met virtually with Diana Lara, District Representative, in Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins’ office to discuss current priorities and projects at the university, including College Corps at USD and the goals of the Horizon Project, as well as to advocate for an increase to the Cal Grant to help students with affordability of college.

After graduation, Hornedo plans to enter a masters program in student affairs, and one day perhaps return to work at USD.

“As President for a Day, it’s been humbling to hear everyone’s story,” he said. “As a first-generation college student who felt intimidated by USD when I first came here, I’m so happy to use this platform to advocate for other students. I’m realizing now that my voice matters, because it could be anyone sitting here.” — Matthew Piechalak

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