Graduate Student Resource Center

Ten Questions! with Malek Khawam

CSU Graduate Student and Student Government President

This proud Northeast Ohio native, CSU alum and current graduate student, found educational opportunities at his “front door” having completed a B.A. in Urban Affairs, currently pursuing an MPA, and planning ahead for a J.D. from C-M College of Law. Learn more about Malek Khawam with theseTen Questions!

1.  We know you as President of Student Government Association and as a Graduate Student in the Levin College of Urban Affairs, tell us a little more about yourself.

I was born in Spokane Washington, where my mom completed her residency.  I eventually moved to Northeast Ohio where I grew up as a West-sider between Lakewood and Westlake. My mom’s folks are from Hood River, Oregon and my father’s family settled in Northeast Ohio after emigrating from Beirut, Lebanon in the 80’s. I have two sisters and a brother and several cousins who are like siblings to me.

2.  As you plan ahead to your third degree, tell us how you originally chose Cleveland State University?

I chose CSU because Cleveland is my home. I never bought into the notion that one has to leave home to find opportunity because opportunity was waiting at my front door. The experience at Cleveland State is unlike any other collegiate experience that I am aware of; this institution has a unique personality that matches the charm of Northeast Ohio.

3.  What is your current academic program?

I am enrolled in the accelerated Master of Public Administration 4+1 Degree Program. I received my B.A. in Urban Studies in spring 2016 from the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and will complete my Master of Public Administration program in spring 2017. Upon completion of my MPA, my desire is to enroll in Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

4.  What attracted you to the Master of Public Administration Program?

I tested the waters of Political Science when entering CSU as an undecided student.  During my first year, I found the Levin College of Urban Affairs had everything to offer someone with a hankering for politics, economics, policy, and social justice. I wanted a program that would equip me with the historic knowledge as well as the technical skills to be an agent of change in my community and the Levin program has done exactly that.

5.  After completing your Master’s and Juris Doctorate Degree, what is next for you?

I hope to establish myself with an organization that is policy-oriented. Potential opportunity exists with local and county governments and eventually I believe that I will find myself in Washington, D.C. working in the federal government or with a national policy/advocacy firm. I have always had aspirations of public office and will continue to keep it on the horizon.

6.   Congratulations on your SGA Presidency - the first Graduate Student to hold that position in more than 10 years!  What appealed most to you about joining Student Government?

I felt SGA was a natural fit for me, as someone who wants to serve as a representative of the people. I have an inclination to public service and SGA has enabled me to practice as a public servant in an environment where I am surrounded by peers and mentors.

7.  As SGA President, running on the Students Serving Students platform, what are the goals for your SGA Board in 2016/17?

Our major SGA goals for the academic year 2016/17 include:

  • Representing the issues relevant to college students at the local and state level – this means we plan to advocate for students in Columbus for increased state funding in higher education,
  • Continuing to build an inclusive environment for all students, amidst a divided and strained social climate,
  • Developing the best possible collegiate experience by ensuring student services, such as library, parking, and dining, are meeting the expectations of our student body.

    (SGA Board members also include: Tyler Wilson, Vice President; Olga Grech, Secretary; and Harinder Singh, Treasurer)
8.   What is the greatest challenge you face in your role as SGA President?

As a leader, I have to be aware that I may not agree with everyone but I have to be able to understand and empathize with their perspective. One of the biggest challenges I have is being fully representative of a diverse body of 17,000 students, all with varying challenges and concerns. When you break down barriers with people with whom you may not see eye-to-eye and reach a common understanding, it can be powerful. The biggest reward is being able to empower students; being able to use the tools that I have received and passing them on for someone else to add to their toolbox. I’m just trying to build a giant tool shed here at Cleveland State.

9.    What is your advice to students thinking about student involvement or leadership opportunities?

I advise all students who are seeking to get involved at Cleveland State that this is one of the best institutions to do so. Despite the fact that we have 17,000 students, every individual student has an opportunity to become involved and serve as a leader. We are a large student body that operates as a small school community. I’d like to think that I am very representative of the average student at Cleveland State and that an opportunity, like leading in Student Government, is one of many roles available to all students.        

10.  What have you gained thus far from your CSU academics and your student involvement experiences? 

What I have gained from CSU is the “toolbox” to succeed in my personal and professional life. My toolbox contains the knowledge that I have received from professors, advisors, administration, staff and fellow students. The connections that I have made at Cleveland State are invaluable. Through experience, I have achieved a broader perspective about the world and how I see myself in it. Whether insightful conversations with a fellow student or an intriguing lecture from a professor, this institution has challenged me to recognize problems in their full complexity. I do not take for granted the confidence that CSU has given me to be an agent of positive change in the near future.

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