Student Advocate’s Actions Speak Louder Than Words
- Major: Political Science
- Class Of: 2015
“ You really have an opportunity to take your own personal experiences, the things you’re learning in the classroom, and apply them in different ways. ”
Devon Graves is the first to admit that his office could be tidier, but there’s good reason for the clutter.
His desk is a towering stack of documents, schedules and handwritten reminders. It’s an intimidating display, but necessary for all his roles on and off campus.
Graves recently finished serving with the Department of Education as a student representative, looking at federal loans, loan forgiveness and the ways students make repayments.
Before that, he was a member of a committee responsible for selecting Cal Poly Pomona’s new president.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is plenty more on Graves’ resume.
The 22-year-old political science student has racked up an impressive list of titles and accolades, and he’s been driven to get the most out of each and every endeavor.
“It goes back to our slogan, the learn-by-doing application of knowledge,” Graves says. “You really have an opportunity to take your own personal experiences, the things you’re learning in the classroom, and apply them in different ways.”
Whether it’s a club, council or organization, Graves has remained immersed in multiple roles since entering Cal Poly Pomona in 2011.
As a freshman, Graves was already busy balancing classes, homework and practice as a student-athlete. Seeking to get experience in his field of study, he dove headlong into student governance roles.
Within a year, Graves was appointed attorney general for Associated Students, Inc. on campus.
During his term with ASI, he began attending California State Student Association meetings. Soon, Graves was working on campaigns for the organization while getting firsthand experience in the procedures, bylaws and policies of the CSSA.
His relationship with the organization developed further. When Graves wrapped up his term as attorney general with ASI, he was elected chair of the CSSA.
The non-profit organization is composed of student representatives from each campus in the California State University system, and they serve as directors for the board that advocates for students in the system.
It’s a role that aligns closely with Graves’ underlying passion: providing a voice for students.
“It feels good to know that students don’t have to worry about some things because I get to be a beacon or a liaison from the student voice to administration,” Graves says. “That’s really the driving force for me.”
In less than a year, he would take on another title: commissioner for the California Student Aid Commission, the state agency that handles financial aid for students.
As a senior at Cal Poly Pomona, Graves has divided his time between campus, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., and other schools within the California State University system.
Graves makes no pretense about handling so many roles while still being a college student: It’s a serious challenge, but worth it – especially as a first-generation college student.
“My parents are the toughest people I know,” Graves says. “So when I do what I do, I want to make them proud and show that whatever sacrifices they’ve made have been worth it. It’s definitely a big factor.”
Graves will continue his academic endeavors at UCLA, where he will pursue a master’s degree in higher education. It will bring him one step closer to his dream job as a college administrator in an outreach position.
In a short time, Graves will have to clear out the office he’s held with ASI as a student representative, including a cork board that’s crammed with mementos from his journey at Cal Poly Pomona.
There’s a handwritten letter from the chancellor of the CSU system, a personal note from Cal Poly Pomona’s president, and many awards and honors congratulating Graves for his service.
“This represents everything that I’ve done,” he says.
He pauses for a moment and adds, “My dad always said the worst thing people can do is say ‘No.’ That’s why it’s so important for students to be involved. There’s nothing to lose if you do. Take that extra initiative and ownership of your campus. Try to shape this institution or the educational experience in any way you can.”