Christina Saad: USD's President for a Day

When Christina Saad awakened in her Maher Hall residential space last Thursday morning, the University of San Diego senior did so knowing she wasn’t starting her day in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice where a 9:15 a.m. IPE: Modern Capitalism class normally awaits.

No, her day began even earlier, shortly before 8:30 a.m., when she walked to the Hughes Administration Building and opened the door to the USD President's Office for a meeting with her executive staff members — Elaine Atencio, Cindy Casillas and Stacey Truver — to discuss her day’s schedule.

It was here when Saad, an international relations and business administration double major, exchanged her student life for the chance to be USD's President for a Day. While she fulfilled duties normally assigned to the university’s president, Dr. James T. Harris, the latter attended Saad's class in the IPJ and three others, as well as other activities to fulfill his obligation.

Saad's day was a full one. She met with Undergraduate Admissions Director Minh-Ha Hoang to decide on a student admission application; she received an update on USD's Renaissance Plan with Vice President of University Operations’ Ky Snyder; she spoke with Austin Galy, assistant director in the Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action, to talk about connecting more students through community engagement; she filmed a video for the Living Our Mission series with the Digital Communications and Institutional Marketing (DCIM) Department; had a working lunch with Student Affairs administrators to suggest ways to bridge more Toreros from different corners of campus to get them more involved; she presented a $1,000 check — each USD President for a Day gets one to donate to a charity of their choice — to Sarah Cooper, executive director of YALLA SD, a local nonprofit organization where Saad volunteers her time.

"After learning about this organization through my USD peers who play soccer with the children in this program, I reached out to YALLA to be a tutor," said Saad in her President for a Day application. "I convinced a couple of friends to join me and volunteer on a weekly basis. Through our experiences, I've gotten to see what a phenomenal organization it is. Every day, after school, refugee and immigrant children come to this safe space to be in community, work on their homework and learn cognitive skills. ... I would assume that a couple hundred students use their services and, considering they act like their natural selves, I can tell this is a second home for them."

After lunch and posing for pictures with Cooper, Saad and Dr. Harris attended a Fireside Chat event in front of the fire pits next to the Torero Store to meet Torero community members. While it happened on this particular day, an impromptu prospective student campus tour group stopped by the space and was greeted by President Saad. She then left campus for a meeting with a prospective USD donor; and her day concluded by accompanying Jim and Mary Harris to a fundraising dinner event for The Monarch School, a local K-12 public school specifically designed to educate homeless youth.

President For a Day 2018

Their paths crossed only a few times during the day, but Harris stayed busy with Saad's class load — the aforementioned IPE: Modern Capitalism, Strategic Management, U.S. National Security and Sustainable International Development. He ate lunch in the Student Life Pavilion, visited students at the International Student Organization (ISO) Coffee Hour and connected with USD's Students for Life organization during its L.I.F.E. Week event, PB and Jammin' in the SLP Plaza Mayor where they made meals that are then donated to those in need in San Diego.

The USD President for a Day event is an idea Harris started when he first became a college president at Defiance College in Ohio and continued at Widener University in Pennsylvania. Saad is the third USD student to be President for a Day, joining inaugural winner, Will Tate, and last year's recipient, Olivia Gonzalez.

Asked during lunch why she applied to be President for a Day, Saad stated: "It's a real cool opportunity to get to meet administrators, but it's also a chance to see the trajectory of where USD hopes to go in the next couple of years. As a senior, this is a culmination, a chance to reflect upon my four years here."

It's been an impressive journey for Saad, an active Torero. In addition to her double major, she's been a residential assistant (RA) for three years, a campus tour guide for four years, a three-year leader with USD’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter, an active member in ISO, and more. She plans to attend law school and has been accepted to schools on both the west and east coast but has not yet made her final decision.

Her leadership development and opportunities she's taken while at USD to help and support others made her a fine choice as President for a Day.

"I wholeheartedly believe in USD's mission. So much so that not only have I made it a personal goal to become an ethical leader, but also, I’ve aimed to foster this desire in each of the underclassmen I've mentored. This mentorship occurs through both my formal roles and informal ones, building friendships through intentional lunches together and invitations to school events."

— Ryan T. Blystone

Video by Allyson Meyer '16


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