Mihaylo College economics and finance student Sakshi Walia '18 in the Mihaylo Courtyard at Cal State Fullerton.

For Sakshi Walia ’18, helping students succeed is a life mission. “I am passionate about helping students who are underrepresented or from low-income backgrounds,” she says.

Presiding over a club of 15 students may be a challenge, but what would it be like to represent all 478,638 students of the 23-campus California State University system? Sakshi Walia ’18, a Mihaylo economics and finance student, is student representative for the Admission Advisory Council, which advises Cal State Chancellor Timothy White.

For thousands of Californians, the California State University system is an affordable and accessible avenue to an undergraduate or graduate degree. Thanks to Sakshi Walia ’18 (economics and finance), the Cal State Chancellor’s Office, which directs the multi-campus system, hears from the perspective of a Mihaylo undergrad.

In meetings with university presidents and high-level administrative officials, Walia ensures that the voice of students is heard on policies ranging from outreach to underprivileged populations to helping students graduate on-time without excessive debt.

“The two main topics are career development, which includes helping students know what path they should take, and basic needs, such as addressing student homelessness and food insecurity,” says Walia.

With the Cal State system including monoliths such as Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge, each with more than 40,000 students, as well as smaller schools such as Cal State Channel Islands with about 6,600 students, each campus has its own challenges and opportunities. “Every campus is different and every dynamic is different,” she says.

Addressing Basic Student Needs

At least 21% of the Cal State student population is estimated to be food insecure, though figures vary from campus to campus and research is currently being conducted for an accurate assessment.

Campuses are meeting the needs of students by developing food pantries and reaching out to alumni to provide housing arrangements for low-income students. Some schools have provided unattended food racks in their libraries to minimize any stigma for students who need assistance.

The modern buildings of the hilltop campus of Cal State San Marcos north of San Diego, California.

Sakshi Walia has visited 15 of the 23 Cal State campuses, including CSU San Marcos. With 13,000 students, she notes that the San Diego County university has an entirely different vibe than the much-larger Cal State Fullerton. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

At Cal State Fullerton, such efforts include the establishment of a food pantry and an email survey sent to students last November to assess the food insecurity challenge.

“I am passionate about helping students who are underrepresented or from low-income backgrounds,” says Walia.  “Some students must take on a 15-unit load, work two or three jobs, and be worried about where they are going to sleep the next day or even if they will have their next meal. This can be emotionally and physically detrimental to a student’s health and success. But I want students to know that the CSU is working to find new and better ways to support them so they can succeed.”

Helping Students Launch Careers

While going to college is a life-changing experience in itself, most students and their families are hopeful that a degree translates to a rewarding career path. Walia is on the front lines of ensuring the career readiness of Cal State students.

Due to her extensive involvement through the Admission Advisory Council and CSUF student government, Walia was invited to attend the Alumni Council Meeting at CSU Bakersfield in March.

Focusing on California Governor Jerry Brown’s policy goal of improving four-year graduation rates, the council is seeking to connect alumni with students to create career development opportunities, helping students identify what academic paths they wish to pursue early in their degree programs.

To the Future

After graduating next year, Walia hopes to take a year off and then pursue a graduate degree in public policy and ultimately earn a Ph.D. She hopes her career path will include assisting today’s diverse university student population in developing academic and professional opportunities.

Why You Should Get Involved

Want to make the most of your university experience? Walia says getting involved is paramount.

“It is hard to succeed in college if you don’t have a mentor or a network, and the best path to achieve that is to get involved on or off campus,” she says.

Opportunities for Mihaylo students include involvement in one of our Business Inter-Club Council (BICC)-recognized clubs, opportunities through Associated Students Inc. (ASI), paid student assistant employment, internships and service-learning activities. Information on ways to get involved in Cal State Systemwide Committees is also available online.

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