Senior uses past leadership positions to prepare for future

Cougar Leadership Team director will intern for Philippine government this summer; reflects on growth



Rhea Gonzaga, Associated Director of the Cougar Leadership Team, describes how her roles in student leadership have shaped her time at WSU on Tuesday afternoon in the CUB.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

Rhea Gonzaga, senior political science major, has held several leadership positions throughout her career at WSU.

She said she loves programming and providing opportunities for people to come together.

Two years ago, Rhea said, she helped put on the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Leadership Conference, which had about 1,000 attendees. She was assisted in bringing Rudy Francisco, an upcoming poet who was later on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, to campus.

Rhea said before helping out with the conference, she did not know much about programming, but she learned so much while doing it.

Helping with the conference was her “peak” to learning to trust herself and getting to know her abilities, she said.

“I got to bring so many people together on campus, and I think that’s something [I value] because I’m such a harmonious person of including everyone,” Rhea said.

She was also the Shaping High School Asian Pacific Islanders for the Next Generation (SHAPING) co-chair with the Asian Pacific American Student Coalition, which hosts a conference for high school students to encourage them to pursue higher education.

Student Involvement Multicultural Coordinator Phillip Sinapati said knowing Rhea has been a blessing. When she was a co-chair for the conference, Rhea not only finished her own work, but also checked other’s work.

“If I were to hire someone to work with me on any project, it’d be Rhea,” Sinapati said.

She always does more than what is asked of her. She genuinely cares for people and wants what is best for them, he said.

Rhea said she has modified and come up with a curriculum for students going through the Emerging Leaders program. She was able to lobby in Olympia for the ASWSU Cougar Lobby Team, and she also worked on the S&A committee.

Rhea said this past year, she has been able to reflect on what she wants to do in the future and look back on her experiences over the past few years.

“It’s been a journey that I didn’t expect I’d ever go through,” she said.

Rhea said part of what has brought her to where she is today is that she likes getting out of her comfort zone.

She said she never knew she would have the chance to advocate for students, as she did with the Phi Gamma Delta, also known as Fiji, incident earlier in the year, although being on the “front lines” shocked her.

While it sounds cheesy, Rhea said, she lives by what her Student Involvement Leadership Coordinator Tamara Crooks told her: step out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone.

“I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for getting so involved, as well as learning where my boundaries are with my sanity, learning to say no to things,” Rhea said.

Devon Holze, senior math and political science double major, said Rhea puts so much work into everything she does and puts her all into helping other people.

“She doesn’t do 50 percent. She doesn’t do 75 percent. If she commits to something, she’s going to do it 110 percent,” Holze said.

Rhea said she managed Holze and Harald Hyllseth’s ASWSU presidential campaign last year.

While they did not win the campaign, Rhea put her all into it and supported them during every step, Holze said.

This summer, Rhea will intern in the government of the Philippines with Congressman Ruwel Peter S. Gonzaga.

Rhea said, “Being able to do what I can do to make this place a little bit better through everything I’ve done has honestly molded the person I am today.”