You could say it was kind of like having Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama together in the same room.
California State University, Northridge Associated Students presidents and vice presidents representing every decade since the 1960s participated in the AS Presidents Day Luncheon on Feb. 15 at Orange Grove Bistro and other sites at CSUN.
The event aimed to bring back and recognize past student leaders and connect them with current leaders who are in many ways the voice of CSUN’s student body.
“We have a universal love of the college and joy in helping others,” said John Cagle ’66 (Communication Studies), AS president from 1966-67. “We reflected on the highlight moments [today] — some serious, some humorous.”
Fourteen alumni participated in the event. They were recognized at the AS Senate meeting and took a campus tour, which included a stop at the Matador Statue, where they learned about the relatively new “tradition of the rose.” In 2011, Associated Students started the tradition of laying red roses at the statue’s feet, a symbolic gesture for Matadors past and present who want to commemorate or celebrate a significant achievement.
After the tour, past and present AS leaders held a roundtable meeting, where alumni offered advice and listened to the challenges and issues that today’s leaders face.
That part of the day particularly resonated with current AS President Jorge Reyes.
The meeting reinforced the idea of “how to team up with all the students on campus and bring activism back to campus,” Reyes said. “And definitely be more brave. … The main thing is [the alumni] were in my shoes. I was able to relate to them. Some of the same issues are still here.”
Reyes also learned how many of the past leaders used their time in student government as a springboard to professional success, he said.
“I hope I can be as successful as the people in this room,” Reyes said. “They’re a big inspiration because of what AS did for them and their future.”
Joaquin Macias ’00 (Psychology) is a prime example. Macias served as AS president in 1998 and made citywide news as part of the first all-minority group to run student government at CSUN. He later worked in city government and now works as a program officer for child-advocacy nonprofit First 5 LA.
“It definitely propelled me into [the government] part of my career,” he said of his AS presidency. “But overall, the negotiation skills I learned here, the outreach skills that you learn when you’re campaigning carried forward to everything I do in my career.”
Macias said coming to the AS Presidents Day Luncheon was important for him because it allowed him to reach current students.
“Being a student leader, you’re so invested in campus. It really stays with you,” he said. “When I have the opportunity to talk to current student leaders, I take advantage of that. You want to encourage them at every step to continue along that path and to not just be a fly on the wall — but to take advantage of the opportunity so that they can broaden their experiences.”