Student body president reflects on career and challenges ahead


SGA President John Jose discusses plans with SGA Public Relations Secretary Arnela Zekic. The SGA meets every Monday at 3:30 p.m. in SU 104.

As student body president, John Jose enters the second half of the fall semester as head of SGA. The senior organizational leadership major and political science minor caught up with the The Northerner about his journey to the student leadership position and how the new role has impacted every area of his life.


Life in America

Ten years ago, a fourteen-year-old boy from the Philippines moved to the United States with his mother and stepfather, leaving behind his grandmother, three uncles, a dozen cousins and the only life he had ever known.

“I was an incoming seventh grader,” John Jose recalled. “My dad passed away, my mom found a new guy that was the most amazing guy I’ve ever met and they got remarried.  I’m an only kid, so I’m dragged into this place called America and had no idea what’s going to be here; had no family here.”

Jose grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and in time learned to love his new home, the St. Louis Cardinals, cooking, traveling and politics. But his home country still claimed a special place in Jose’s heart and he called his extended family often, making plans to visit.

Tori Lentz

The decision

As Jose approached his high school graduation and began looking at potential colleges, he ruled out several nearby Kentucky universities.

“I did not want to go to U of L, did not want to go to UK or Western, ” Jose said. “I figured I’d find something different and find my mark and I found it at NKU.”

Although he knew he liked politics, Jose remained undeclared for about two years before he decided on a major in organizational leadership and minor in political science.

“I knew a lot of my friends who were doing it and were succeeding in it ,” Jose said. “I figured one of the things NKU prides itself on is transdisciplinary courses and I know with that degree I can do a lot of things with it so I’m not stuck on one kind of career.”


A loss and an internship

Jose became involved in student government and ran for student body president his sophomore year with running mate Clayton Castle. The pair lost a close race to candidates Erik Pederson and David Trump by 61 votes.

“I think when I lost the first time in SGA it was a bummer, it was a real bummer,” Jose said.

Despite the loss that spring, Jose landed an internship the following spring with Boone County state senator John Schickel. The experience, he said, was extremely hands on and  taught him the many duties of a senator in politics. Jose was responsible for knowing the green slips, or messages to Schickel about others’ stance on various bills and policies, preparing the senator for his committee meetings, and calling Schickel’s constituents.

“It was really cool because you were just thrown into the fire and my senator didn’t treat me like an intern, you know like, ‘Get me coffee, get me that kind of stuff,’” Jose said. “It was more like, ’here’s what’s going on. Here’s the teaching points to this and the learning points to it as well.‘“



Jose campaigned once more for student body president during the latter half of his junior year with Katherine Hahnel, SGA member and vocal performance and accounting double major, as his running mate. The two ran on the platform of being a voice for student needs and bringing greater diversity to student government. The two visited numerous NKU organizations to discover student concerns.

After a few intense weeks of campaigning culminating in a debate with opponents David Trump and Justin Wynne, Jose clenched the presidency by a miniscule two-vote margin.

“It’s a dream of mine that took a while to achieve, to be resilient and persistent,” Jose said. “Losing is definitely my biggest launch… I learned a lot from it and it made me a different person, made me mature more, to really see the different things that need to be taken care of.”

A grievance was filed against Jose and Hahnel by Trump and Wynne immediately following the election results, but was soon dismissed after they were found not responsible for libel charges.

“John has surprised me,” Dean Jeffrey Waple, faculty advisor of SGA, said. “I think he’s surprised a lot of us. When he was involved in student government before, he had some challenges. He’s done a remarkably good job with staying focused and getting everyone involved and following through on some of the goals we’ve already started.”


The job

According to Jose, there are four different sides to being student body president.

“One is as a student, that’s the most important thing,” Jose said. “That’s the thing that I’m really working my hardest on because I want to get out of here and graduate or course and get my education. But also being the student body president of SGA you’re the CEO of this organization and you have to make sure that we’re going the course.”

In his short time as SGA president, Jose and student government have worked on resolutions regarding gender-neutral restrooms as well as a solution for desks that are too small for some students in Founders Hall and Landrum Academic Center.

According to Jose, the third aspect of being SGA president is also serving as an effective student regent.

“When I’m on the student regent I don’t think about things personally,” Jose said. “I have to present on behalf of the students and that’s probably the most important thing that I have to keep in mind at all times is that this is not about me, it’s about the students that I serve.”

Finally, Jose said that the fourth facet is serving as the best son, fraternity brother, friend and boyfriend he can be.  Time management  and prioritizing has become crucial in Jose’s  life.

“Sometimes you think, ‘is finishing this paper more important than going to this regent event ? Or is it more important than setting next week’s agenda for SGA and making sure everybody’s good? Or making sure that I go to dinner with my mom or making sure I call my grandma or go on a date with my girlfriend?’” Jose said. “It’s like if you have this time slot, what’s more important?”


Daily Demands

Jose said he fully realizes the commitment and responsibility that go along with being student body president.

“It’s a full-time job,” he said. “If anybody tells you differently, they’re lying.”

Jose is responsible for overseeing the three different secretaries: public relations, student involvement and the administration as well as the legislative liaison.  He also runs meetings, suggests ideas for resolutions and sets goals among other tasks.

Sometimes the day-to-day stress of being a college student and holding high leadership positions affects Jose. When this happens, he often turns to his fellow SGA members in his office.

“If I’m busy or stressed out about something I’ll usually step out and there’s some sort of comedic relief out there,” Jose said. “Today I was cramming for my exam and there was a bunch of guys out there looking up haunted videos and scary videos so we took some time to watch it. It was entertaining and got my mind off things and helped me refocus on what needed to be done.”

Town hall forums, campus safety walks, the election of new senators and more are never far from Jose’s mind.

“This experience, you get thrown into the fire and it really teaches you a lot about life,” he said.



According to Waple, Jose is well-known and regarded by many students, faculty and staff. He meets weekly with Jose to discuss student government, upcoming elections, guest speakers, and life.

“I have a fishbowl speech that I give every student body president about  how all eyes are on them not only when they’re on campus but when they’re off campus,” Waple said. “What they post on Facebook and what they put on social media, what they say in public, it’s a big responsibility for them to take on.”

Hahnel said that although Jose is in the public eye and in charge of many students in SGA, he is constantly thinking of everyone’s best interests, including her own.

“He always thinks about other people and their feelings and sometimes it’s hard to work with him because you’re like, ‘we just need to make a decision right now,’” she said. “He always wants to make sure everyone’s taken care of… and it’s really nice to know I’m working with someone that has my back.”

SGA justice and junior business informatics major Rafael Torres said Jose’s passion for SGA inspired him to get involved in student government himself.

“Working with John Jose is always fun, foremost,” Torres said. “John’s a person of integrity, and that’s what I like about him.”


Future Plans

Following graduation Jose hopes to work in Washington D.C. or become involved in political races in Kentucky. But most importantly, he wants to pay a visit to his native Philippines.

“I’d like to go back for a few years to kind of regain my roots again,” Jose said.

As for his dream job, Jose said he’d like to  start working for the government.

“Preferably I think for launching off my career or after college I’d really like to explore working for the state department or anything that involves something international and within the government, work there a few years, and then move onto the private sector just like everyone would to make the money.”

In the meantime, Jose has big dreams for SGA .

“I don’t want student government to just be a think tank that has all the same ideas,” he said. “I want people to kind of not agree with it and tell us why because I think this group can produce innovation and different ways of thinking rather than everyone agreeing.”