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Monday, September 25, 2023

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As president, Shawki Moore hopes to rebuild an A.S. culture that he said was adversely impacted during the pandemic. (Photo: SDSU) As president, Shawki Moore hopes to rebuild an A.S. culture that he said was adversely impacted during the pandemic. (Photo: SDSU)

A Dream Achieved: Shawki Moore’s Path to A.S. President

COVID-19 threw the communications major off his planned path into student leadership. A willingness to shift gears got him back on.
By Aaron Burgin

When newly elected Associated Students President Shawki Moore looks at the path to what he calls “the pinnacle of my college career” at San Diego State University, the fall of his sophomore year — upended by COVID-19 and other setbacks in his plans for a leadership role — emerges as a crossroads.

“A lot of doors just closed in my face,” said Moore, a communications major. “Plus I was back home. It was very defeating — for like one to two weeks.”

Moore found inspiration from previous A.S. officers who helped him find alternative but equally gratifying routes to leadership and community service. The Afrikan Student Union and the Student African American Brotherhood welcomed his participation. He became a charter board member for the SDSU chapter of the NAACP and began to mentor Henrietta Goodwin Scholars students at the Black Resource Center.

Particularly influential was former A.S. President Christian Onwuka, whose address at a New Student and Family Convocation the summer before his first year at SDSU “planted the seed” for Moore to think of becoming the student body president himself. Moore was sworn in on May 4.

“I think it’s super surreal to be able to accomplish something of this magnitude in my college career,” Moore said.

Moore said that his goals as president include rebuilding an A.S. culture that he said took a hit during the pandemic. 

“That's what I really want to focus this term on as president is really create a nexus community and that culture that creates a strong internal Associated Students that can then broaden out to the larger student body and be able to get people more involved and people feel more included within the organization.”

Specific issues will get discussed with the rest of the executive board during their upcoming summer retreat. 

As president, Moore wants to be accessible to all student groups and stakeholders. “Building those genuine relationships with community leaders is so important,” he said. 

At Rodriguez High School in Fairfield, California, Moore was more interested in the football team, where he played safety, than campus leadership. It wasn’t until he visited SDSU, as an admitted student, on Harambee Weekend in the spring of 2019 that he even considered it a possibility. 

It was during that weekend he met Onwuka, then the A.S. vice president of Financial Affairs. Onwuka mentioned to Moore that he was going to run for president that semester. 

“He was a big deciding factor on why I chose to come to SDSU,” Moore said. “To see him then be elected president gave me the inspiration that a Black man, like myself, could become president at a university where we only represent 4 percent of the population.”

Moore’s election validated advice he received in an early conversation with Maxwell Johnson, then a member of the A.S. executive team.

It was late in the spring of his first year. Moore was back home in Northern California, waiting out the COVID lockdown. He had lost an election to become a student diversity commissioner and was waitlisted as an RA. His ambitious plan to win election to the A.S. leadership team as a sophomore was going nowhere.

Johnson mentored Moore as part of the freshman year Leadership Experience program.

“He said, ‘Listen, once one door closes, another one opens,’” Moore said. “And he was right.”

So Moore got involved in other student groups and remained active in his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. These positions, Moore said, allowed him to develop his leadership skills in a way he never expected. 

“I had to find another route, an unorthodox way to bolster my leadership, continue to grow within my college experience and be able to give back to my community,” Moore said. “It turned out to be more rewarding because I was in my community doing the work and really helping students that were going through a hard time.”

“I didn’t do anything for a resume,” he added. “I did everything out of the passion in my heart. But without those different positions, I don’t know if I would have been qualified to then run for vice president of External Relations.”

That dream, it turned out, was simply deferred to his junior year.

Johnson, the former mentor who graduated from SDSU in 2020, said hearing Moore point to their conversation as a positive turning point is gratifying. 

“Having Shawki in the leadership program, he had that natural charisma and true authentic passion for helping people and uplifting his community,” Johnson said. “So when he was faced with that obstacle and that disappointment, I knew I couldn’t let him give up on himself, and I knew the importance of when you’re at your lowest point, that is when you have to dig deepest and it’s so vital to have people who believe in you, too.”

Moore, who said he is considering pursuing a career in communications or sportscasting after graduation, said he also looks forward to his first full “college experience” in his final year. 

“My first year we only had one semester, sophomore year we were off campus, and this year, we just started to get back to normal, with a few restrictions. I’m just looking to find a level of normalcy and having a fun year where I’m able to provide a lot to all of the things I am involved in.”