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San Diego State University

2017 Quest for the Best Winners

At any given moment on campus, one student’s diligent research is leading to breakthrough discoveries, while another’s idea for a volunteer project is changing lives on the other side of the world. Every year, San Diego State University students take their personal and academic achievements to new heights, and every year SDSU sets out to find those students who exemplify a commitment to excellence. 

The 2017 Quest for the Best winners represent SDSU’s standout student leaders who have excelled academically while dedicating themselves to both campus involvement and community service. 



Mustafa Alemi, Junior, double major in Political Science and Islamic/Arabic Studies

My Defining Aztec Experience: In 2015, as a part of SDSU’s Divest Coalition, I helped initiate one of the first student referendums concerning the university’s divestment from corporations determined to be complicit in the Israeli occupation. A lot of effort was put into petitioning, putting up flyers, and getting people to attend meetings and vote. Thankfully, we were able to pass the 10% threshold needed for the vote to count, with 53% in favor. As a political science major, it was amazing to see the campus come together and engage with such a controversial topic.  

What’s Next: After I complete my fourth year here at SDSU, I plan on attending a joint-degree graduate program for a Juris Doctorate in law and a Master’s in Public Policy with the hope of someday working in public policy in the US or international law.



Grant Varnau, Senior, Physics; minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies

My Defining Aztec Experience: When I got the call telling me I was being awarded the Marc Scholarship, it was a defining moment that things were going to be okay for me. It’s funded by the National Institute of Health to help underrepresented, low-income students achieve their Ph.D’s in the sciences and covers tuition, research, and things like that. It meant that my family wouldn’t have to be worried about money all the time.

What’s Next: Starting this summer, I’ll be heading to the University of Arizona to begin work on my Ph.D in Chemical Physics. I’ll be doing research with ultrafast laser spectroscopy. After earning my Ph.D, I’d like to go into academia to mentor and teach undergraduates who came from a similar situation like mine, much as Dr. Enciso did for me.



Ceinna Bush, Junior, Communications; minor in Leadership

My Defining Aztec Experience: My Aztec Experience is defined by the connections I’ve made on campus. All of my leadership opportunities started when i joined the African Student Union, which helped me branch out into other clubs and organizations and gave me the resources to be a better leader. They became my family alongside Student Life and Leadership’s Dr. Adams, who really mentored me regarding school, my sorority, and my personal life.

What’s Next: My goal is to get my Master’s in Counseling at either San Diego State or USC to become a high school counselor. I’d eventually like to create a family-help guidance center with resources for struggling families and students who don’t have the support to gain access to higher education.



Mark Sanders, Junior, Microbiology; minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies and Chemistry

My Defining Aztec Experience: At the end of my Spring semester freshman year, I guided my first Colorado River canoeing trip for Aztec Adventures, SDSU’s outdoor education program. It was special to be able to help facilitate a great wilderness experience and build community among trip members through a shared love of the outdoors. I had a lot on my plate during that time as I was dual-enrolled in SDSU and EMT school, but I was doing well academically and loving all that I was learning. I remember paddling back to camp at the end of my trip and feeling just so happy and proud to be an Aztec. 

What’s Next: I’d like to attend medical school to become a physician-scientist and be involved in academic medicine. I’d specifically like to focus on combatting chronic diseases like heart disease, which is the number one killer in the US and could be very preventable. The dream would be to attend Stanford or UCSF or UCSD - to stay local, but still be some place with an academically rigorous environment to do research.



Erika Grecia Meza, Senior, Psychology; minor in Counseling and Social Change

My Defining Aztec Experience: My defining Aztec Experience began when I first transferred to SDSU! I’m a first-generation student and I spent my first year really figuring things out, so I attended community college for what I expected to be two years but ended up being three. I focused on learning about what it takes to transfer and now I’m graduating! 

What’s Next: I’ll be attending the SDSU Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s program starting in June! I’m working towards becoming a therapist, but I’d also like to pursue a Ph.D. I’m considering psychology, education, or environmental sustainability so I can really make a systematic change in the world for the better.



Asha Alshabazz, Senior, Communications; minor in Africana Studies

My Defining Aztec Experience: When I became an RA! I wanted to be a mentor to students of color so they’d feel more comfortable fitting in on campus. I wanted to create change so I facilitated panel discussions for the Black Lives Matter programs and encouraged my residents to attend. I also performed for different cultural organizations on campus. 

What’s Next: I want to take a year off and study for the LSAT before going to law school! I’m shooting for the stars so I’m looking at Columbia, UC Berkeley, or maybe UCLA because they’re the only school that offers Critical Race Theory. I want to keep my options open, but I know I want to go into Civil law.



Jason Ogbeide, Senior, Accounting; minor in Marketing

My Defining Aztec Experience: I’d have to say it was when I won Homecoming 2016. I’ve been involved in so many leadership positions that my parents were worried it would hinder my academic success. But once I applied and won, it all tied together! I was being recognized for my hard work, leadership, and dedication to the community. 

What’s Next: I’ve been interning at PricewaterhouseCoopers since 2014 and they recently offered me a full-time position starting in January 2018! While I plan to travel a bit before I start, my biggest goal this summer is to get my CPA license. I want to get all of that knocked out before I start so I can just focus on work.



Yaneth Mora Lopez, Senior, Child and Family Development; minors in Spanish and Counseling and Social Change

My Defining Aztec Experience: My defining Aztec Experience was in 2012 when I attended Summer Bridge. It’s an eight week program through EOP. I loved the community we built and that many of the other students were first-generation and had similar values and goals. After that program, when I started my first year, I wasn’t nervous. I knew where everything was on campus...everywhere I walked, I recognized people from Summer Bridge. I felt welcomed, like I belonged here.

What’s Next: I’m currently finishing up an undergrad program at the UCLA School of Law, but once I finish and take the LSAT, I plan to apply for law school for Fall 2018. I also applied for a public policy fellowship through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. If I get it, I’ll be moving to DC sometime this summer!



Carolina Rosario Mozee, Senior, Psychology; minors in Spanish and Counseling and Social Change

My Defining Aztec Experience: When I became an RA, it was my first job and it really solidified for me that I was a student here and a part of this. It made me feel like a part of the community. I felt like I could give back like my RA did for me, to create an environment full of support and care and empowerment. 

What’s next:  I’m going to be attending Colorado State for a master’s in Student Affairs. I want to work with a higher education institution, whether that’s a community or a four-year college. After a few years, I’d like to go back to school to get my Ph.D in Higher Education.



Arnelle Faye Sambile, Senior, double major in English and Communications

My Defining Aztec Experience: In my third year, the SDC Commission had a banquet with all of the organizations that we interact with to thank everyone for all of their work. It was very affirming and left me with a strong sense of community and accomplishment. It definitely motivated me to continue my work for the next year! 

What’s Next: I’m excited to be getting my Master’s in Education and Higher Ed at the University of Vermont! I also have a summer internship with the Lead Center at UC Berkeley.