By Sam Walker
The Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB) at Cal State San Marcos names undergraduate Jeff “JJ” Gutowski the recipient of the 2014-2015 James R. Meindl Student Leadership Award, the most prestigious student honor given by the Center.
Named in memory of professor James R. Meindl of the State University of New York at Buffalo, the award honors one graduating senior each year from CSUSM’s College of Business Administration (CoBA) who demonstrates outstanding leadership and mentorship in school, at work and in the community.
This year’s award was presented by CLIMB Director Dr. Raj Pillai at the CoBA Dean’s Student Recognition Breakfast on April 10, 2015 at Shadowridge Golf Club. Gutowski was selected among a strong cohort of outstanding student leaders who exemplify CLIMB’s mission to foster the development of effective leaders at all levels – individual, team, organization and community. Along with the award, Gutowski receives a $500 award generously donated by Welk Resorts.
As a freshman, Gutowski’s interest in state politics piqued and he soon became the Vice President and later President of the CSUSM College Republicans student organization. He then pursued a path in the Air Force ROTC program at SDSU in his sophomore year where he joined the John Burdette Binkley (JBB) Society, an extra-curricular Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (AFROTC) program, and rose to become a Senior Trainer for JBB which aims to acclimate first and second year cadets to the high intensity AFROTC environment. However, after a change of heart, Jeff returned to his home campus at CSUSM to pursue his passion for business and ran for the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) CoBA Representative. Once elected, he managed several internal and external committees designed to foster an enhanced higher education experience for himself and his fellow peers.
“I truly found a home in student government and decided to expand my role and ran for Vice President of External Affairs,” stated Gutowski, who now serves as the voting member at the California State Student Association, which represents 435,000 students. “We have monthly plenary dialogue on financial aid, student access, deferred maintenance, sexual assault and many other issues that affect students every day. I have also afforded other students the chance to voice their concerns by training them how to effectively lobby and set appointments. This was done through leading a group of students for three years to our state capitol to lobby our legislators for the broad category of higher education access.”
In his last year at CSUSM, Gutowski was motivated to become a peer mentor through Student Life and Leadership as a result of all the people that helped him rise to where he is today.
“I wanted to impart some of the institutional knowledge and ‘trade secrets’ that I have gained through my tenure at San Marcos,” he said. “Leadership is a lifelong passion and has finally awarded me the opportunity to lead others to teach them what I have learned through my experiences.”.
In addition to his leadership roles on campus, Gutowski sits on the San Marcos city council as a commissioner for the Student and Neighborhood Relations council where he advocates the students’ voice as the committee discusses how our campus expansion affects the neighborhood community. After graduation in May, Gutowski hopes to work for a global law firm in downtown Los Angeles.