San Diego State is where leadership begins. Associated Students President Rob O’Keefe embodies the leadership worthy of an Aztec: filled with passion, humility and dedication. The A.S. president has a myriad of responsibilities to go with a vast wardrobe of Aztec apparel.
Associated Students is a non-profit organization that operates on an annual $22 million budget and provides much for the student body. A.S. is responsible for facilities such as the Aztec Recreation Center, Children’s Center and Open Air Theatre. Similarly, A.S. sponsors events such as Aztec Nights and Greenfest and administers study abroad scholarships. Needless to say, the A.S. presidency is a full-time job. O’Keefe leads the A.S. team while still working as a full-time student, double-majoring in political science and international conflict security resolution, with a minor in marketing.
As A.S. president, O’Keefe works closely with all facets of the university, including deans, alumni and the student body. He attends multiple meetings a day, usually for one of The Campanile Foundations’ 12 A.S. committees he sits on. He’s been involved with A.S. restructuring, SDSU President Elliot Hirshman’s strategic planning campaign and the upcoming Aztec Student Union. With all of the changes implemented this year, O’Keefe has been able to see grand ideas come to fruition, such as his personal project to offer an experimental college opportunities, which would consist of not-for-credit art classes at the Aztec Student Union. As he speaks of his excitement for what’s to come and his involvement in nearly every campus affair, O’Keefe’s passion for creating a lasting impact on life at SDSU is apparent.
“Every single day is fresh; each day is never the same,” O’Keefe said. Life as the A.S. president seems to be chaotic, yet fulfilling.
O’Keefe still finds time to give back to his community. His current service project is through Embrace San Diego for a program called Ex 4 Vets, a program that provides support for local veterans. He immediately lights up when discussing reaching out to the veterans who have served our country.
“It’s such a good feeling,” O’Keefe said. “They don’t think anyone cares about them, but then we show up.”
Ex 4 Vets takes place on April 20 aboard the historic USS Midway where participants can exercise to raise money and awareness for veterans. O’Keefe’s goal is to commit 1,500 students for the event.
From athletics to student organizations, O’Keefe is dedicated to all Aztecs.
“The best part is the relationships,” O’Keefe said.
In front of Peabody’s Organic Coffee, O’Keefe exchanged hellos with nearly every person who crossed his path. The relationship the A.S. president has with the student body is representative of his leadership qualities. O’Keefe’s affability to everyone he encounters reflects his sensitivity to the diversity of the campus.
His favorite thing about being an Aztec isn’t limited to the red and black polo he wears.
“It’s definitely how large and helpful our community is,” O’Keefe said, referring to SDSU’s expansive alumni network.
O’Keefe articulated his leadership style in four words: “Putting others before myself,” he said, ticking off each word on his fingers. His proudest moment of the year wasn’t any shining achievement, but a subtle one.
“This is going to sound lame, but it’s seeing my teammates being successful,” O’Keefe said.
Now, spring is in bloom and Josh Morse will lead SDSU as the next A.S. president.
“I am very excited for Mr. Morse and his team next year. The next A.S. Council will go through the biggest transition in A.S. history,” O’Keefe said. “Not only will they be moving into a new home in the Aztec Student Union but they will also be faced with the transition between our current government structure and a new one.”
O’Keefe added, “More than anything, I am excited and maybe a little bit jealous that Associated Students everywhere will have the opportunity to be part of SDSU history when our campus opens the Student Union in the fall. That place will be an icon across the country and will set the bar high for other campuses to try and compete with SDSU.”
As always, the A.S. president sets the standards a little bit higher for life at SDSU.
“I would tell the next A.S. president to not forget that they are a student first, president second. It’s a big title and there is a lot of responsibility, but you can’t let it go to your head.”
His closing words of advice, though, is applicable to all Aztecs’ collegiate journeys: “Be kind and humble and you’ll be OK.”