Leading amid Adversity​

The CSU’s ASI presidents are poised to help students navigate uncharted territory during COVID-19. ​


Benjamin Disraeli, twice prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 19th Century, wrote: "There is no education like adversity." Never has that adage been more prescient than now; the 2020-21 school year will go down in history as one of the most challenging times for the CSU community. When hardships like this year's COVID-19 pandemic arise, leaders emerge. And there are no finer examples than the CSU’s Associated Students, Incorporated, presidents. While the upcoming semester will bring new experiences and unexpected challenges, these leaders are already working for the common good and finding ways to ease their fellow students’ apprehension.

We asked some incoming ASI presidents to offer advice on how to approach the new semester and how they plan to lead.​

Zahraa Khuraibet

ZAHRAA KHURAIBET | President, Cal State Student Association

“The years ahead of us are going to be incredibly difficult; however, we will eventually return and adapt to our new normal. The path out of this crisis and to a better future is through higher education. It is critical at this time to be patient, show care to one another and, most important, reach out when you need help. There are resources available that are beyond academic support, virtual and in person. It is absolutely essential to lead with compassion and strength. Students need a firm voice that will highlight the disparities and hardships they’re experiencing. Collaboration within the CSU community is key to finding solutions and applying them to ensure the student experience remains, as it should always be, a high-quality and equitable education.” ​


CYNELLA AGHASI​ | ​Stanislaus State​

“My advice to students who may have reservations about the school year due to the pandemic and virtual learning is that even though we cannot physically see one another right now, we are all in this together. I encourage students to be gentle with themselves and others as we flow through this transition period. At Stanislaus State, we’ve constantly been working together to make this remote learning transition smooth and safe for our students. ASI has not stopped working since we went virtual to ensure the student voice is present at the decision-making table, as well as planning virtual events to support student success.”​​

Christian J. Holt

CHRISTIAN J. HOLT​ | San Diego State

“Remember the reason why you chose to pursue higher education and do not let go of that. Many of us are here to gain access to a better life after college. This fall will bring uncertainty, but there is a lot of opportunity to implement ideas that have never been done before, build community in ways we may have never thought of and really focus on what we find important as a community. As CSU leaders, we must look at the silver linings that will come from this year and the chance to further engage students.”


LUCY YU ​| Cal Poly Pomona

“I don't know if I’ve ever seen our campus community come together and be so tight-knit. Our CPP students are unique. They’re all unbelievably hard-working, passionate and dedicated—not only to their education, but to our generation. Our students are what make our campus strong enough to weather the upcoming storm. Take the leap. I know our world right now seems confusing and scary, but I promise you can still have an amazing college experience if you jump in and immerse yourself in our virtual community. Your journey is what you make of it.” ​



“I would advise scholars to prioritize their mental health and well-being to find the motivation to thrive this academic school year. It’s important to engage in healthy and mind-energi​zing activities such as reading something fun, working out and catching up on favorite shows and films. What makes us ready to weather this COVID-fueled storm is the character and drive of our students and staff. I’ve only been in office for a couple months, but I’ve already witnessed so many people do so much and change their entire way of doing things to make sure services continue. It’s that dedication and drive that make me t​he most confident in The Beach.”​


GRACIELA MORAN | Cal State San Bernardino​

“Although this is a unique time to lead the students, I’m honored to represent CSUSB. Above my role, I am first a student; virtual learning has made me resilient and able to adapt. I’ve found so many resources our CSU system has to offer. This is a unique year; although we will not be in person and having that hands-on experience, I view education in another light. You are investing in your future in higher education. It’s an outlet for change. College students are the future of this nation.”


ANDREW CARRILLO | San Francisco State ​

“A leader, especially during these times, needs to be present and grounded in the ideals of servant leadership. Leadership is not a one-person show—it's about bringing together​ a team that works to pursue a common goal and is constantly bettering the lives of our peers. Be persistent in your studies and your life path. Our generation will lead our society into a more progressive one. SFSU is driven by our principles and will tirelessly work to support our students in a virtual environment.”



“If anyone can weather this storm, it’s Cal State LA students because our campus is very diverse. We’re all going through the same thing, and it’s important that we have a positi​ve outlook. Don’t be afraid to ask your student leaders for campus resources that will allow you to succeed academically. They can provide additional resources that one may not be aware of. I firmly believe that our CSU students can adapt through adversity.”