Juan Pablo Moncayo hasnâ€™t felt like an ordinary student in a while. The dance instructor- turned-executive has come a long way â€“ in more ways than one.
â€œI went from an average student to vice president,â€ Moncayo said. â€œIt was crazy.â€
After winning his first election to student government, Moncayo served as vice president of Associated Students in 2005-06.
Now, in his final year at Fresno State, Moncayo begins his second consecutive term as AS president.
The double major in physics and business administration was the first international student to be elected AS president. He ran unopposed in last spring’s election.
In an interview with the Collegian just before summer break, Moncayo talked about coming to the United States from Ecuador, becoming a student advocate, and forming the outlook for AS this year.
Portillo (P): Many students on campus will be incoming freshman or transfer students, new to Fresno State. What might people not know about you?
Moncayo (M): Iâ€™m going to be a sixth-year senior. I was born in Ecuador, born and raised [there] until I was six, and then I came here to the United States for another six years before I moved back.
So, Iâ€™m kind of a product of both countries.
I have two brothers. They both live in Florida. I am really close to my family.
Iâ€™m actually pretty laid back. I love music. I love jazz and a little bit of everything. My iTunes is crazy; I have like 14 days worth of music.
I have two days of house music, two days of salsa music â€“ just a whole bunch of different stuff.
P:What was your experience like when you came to the United States and Fresno for the first time?
M: We came and lived in Van Nuys, which is not the richest place in L.A. County, in the San Fernando Valley. â€¦ It was really interesting to grow up there for the first six years.
Then, when I was 12, my dad wanted to be a pilot. He had been training for a while when he found a job back in Ecuador that would allow him to start his pilot career.
We all moved back and I did my high school there.
From there, I came straight from Ecuador to Fresno. I came as an international student, while the rest of my family [went to] Florida. Iâ€™ve been the only one out here since 2002.
â€¦ I think the first two days were pretty scary. Iâ€™ll be honest: I was terrified, oh my God. I would be in these panics, like â€˜Oh my God, what am I doing.â€™
â€¦ I would very nonchalantly move away from a situation, going to the bathroom to wash my face, and tell myself that itâ€™s OK.
For two years, I remember how I thought it was so scary to walk in front of the [Free Speech Area] booths. â€¦ It was such a new environment that it takes awhile to get used to.
Itâ€™s interesting when you actually get to know half of the people in the booths.
P: What led you into student government?
M: I was a salsa instructor. I did that for a while with the Fresno State Salsa Club. It was one of the clubs I got involved with first.
I had never taught anything like that before, so I learned how to be a teacher. â€¦ I did not get involved in student government until later.
When I first came to Fresno, I didnâ€™t know [Associated Students] existed. I didnâ€™t realize how powerful it was. â€¦ Iâ€™m the kind of person that gets really frustrated if I canâ€™t at least talk to the person in power. And the United States is a great place to be able to do that.
Thatâ€™s how I slowly started becoming aware of how the system worked, because I had a few concerns about different things on campus. Itâ€™s funny because itâ€™s innate and inherent in me to complain.
I got involved in a group called the USU Board. Itâ€™s a group of students that oversee the Union. â€¦ Through them, I got to see how AS works. I realized how cool it was. [Associated Students is] one of the organizations with the most potential I have ever seen.
P: In the last Associated Students election, you ran unopposed. Did you feel an obligation or a sense of responsibility to run for a second term?
M: I didnâ€™t know I was going to be unopposed until the day I was unopposed. You never know. I thought about it a lot because it was my senior year.
On one side, I felt like I really worked hard last year. But I didnâ€™t feel like if I left at that point that I was done.
I was not comfortable with the fact that I hadnâ€™t pushed myself to the limit and pushed a few things to the limit.
Russel [Statham] and I talked and asked ourselves, â€œWell if you had one more year, what would you do?â€ â€¦ We talked forever. But running again makes it very difficult for new people to get involved.
Thatâ€™s something I really had a hard time with. The other thing is, I knew if I ran again that I could help new people and new students get involved.
I really enjoy the service part of it. I enjoy talking to students and finding out what their concerns are.
Iâ€™m a lot less about the recognition. â€¦ I like spending more time in the core of things.
P: What are some of the biggest challenges of your job as president?
M: I think in this position, your job description is so vague that you will never feel like you are doing a good job.
It sounds like a joke, but the hardest thing about it has been to make sure I still have good health. You get involved and you realize how important the position can be, but it can consume you pretty easily.
There will never be a service that we create that will provide service to everyone. This is what makes our job really fun, but also really hard. There is no typical student.
The average Fresno State student, if you actually look, gives you no data. The margins are just so wide.
The average age is 23, but we have 70-year-old students and we have high school students. Itâ€™s really all over the map.
P: How do you feel about the level of student involvement on campus?
M: If students choose not to get involved with Associated Students they should remember that they are the direct deciders.
We have a system for you to show your concern â€“ itâ€™s called voting. I mean, the Student Rec Center was built because 70 percent plus voted and said, â€œYes, we want this built.â€
You will always have students who will be angry about a decision, and you will have others that will be really happy.
Our job is to discern, â€œOK, what is best for students and what are most students saying?â€
Until 20,000 students realize that they are important, itâ€™ll be really hard for me to sell that to anyone else.
P: What does the new school year look like for Associated Students?
M: Iâ€™m excited because the knowledge we have is going to be enough to make this year more productive. We have an understanding of what projects are going to be achievable and at the same time what will provide the most benefit to students.
Itâ€™s going to be crazy but fun.