2024 May/07

Meet the new EU CONEXUS Student Board President, Léo-Onam

It was just a few months ago that we shared the parting thoughts of the latest EU-CONEXUS Student Board President, Dragos Diaconu. Since then, this role has been taken over by Léo-Onam, who was the Vice President of the board for two years. He is the third Student Board President in the history of EU-CONEXUS, and he has already gained velocity with ongoing projects, as well as set new propositions that are meant to lead the entire student community forward in the following years.

Leo is a 2nd year Master student in Business Management and Administration in La Rochelle University, France. Before that, he obtained a double degree in History in Geography in La Rochelle University. Leo has been an active member of the student community in his university from the start, and he is also the current Student President at La Rochelle University right now.

Settling into the role of the EU-CONEXUS Student Board President, Leo comes in with a clear vision that combines lessons from the previous presidents, his own experience as a board member and Vice President, and his strong alignment with the overall vision and spirit of European Universities. More on that – in his own words.

➡️ Representing students in a European University must be quite different from the same role in your home university. How do you navigate the international aspect and the cultural differences that come with it?

✅ It’s quite a challenge. In a few months we will have the European elections and it’s kind of the same with the European Commission – you have different countries with different interests, backgrounds, ideas, but it’s all about finding a good direction and working towards that shared goal together.
The same can be said about the students: in France students have a strong democratic basis, in other countries it is more rated in terms of perceived ranking, prestige, public image. We don’t have that – it all comes down to a vote. Also, due to cultural gaps we approach some ongoing initiatives from very different standpoints. For example, we have an ongoing project for gender equality, and we see that in some countries there is more progress, whereas in other countries there are more stereotypes. The same applies to the question of race, but at the end of the day we must form a united opinion and stand by it together.

Going beyond that, we also have the geographical gap – students in EU-CONEXUS student board come from quite distant parts within Europe. Each university delegates two students and we all must work together, so we have to really make sure everyone shows up and create a very inclusive, highly interactive setting for ongoing communication.

➡️ How do you feel about taking on this role?

✅ It feels great but it also is a big responsibility – I’m still trying to get a good feel of the scope of my work and the difference that my decisions or initiatives can make.

➡️ What goals/intentions do you have for your time as a student board president?

✅ I’m the third student board president. The first one built everything from the ground up, and he had to make the best of what he had. The second president started building a good foundation. Now that we have experience and valuable feedback from the actions of the latest president, it’s a good time to revisit that foundation, strengthen it and take action.

If the rest of the council allows me to do it, first I would like to put in place a new, universalized system for selecting the student board. For example, right now at La Rochelle the student board members are elected, whereas in some other EU-CONEXUS universities they are appointed by rectors. As the future of our community should be built, in my opinion, on a democratic basis, and also because student board members should represent the interests of the student community, I would like to give this decision to students in every EU-CONEXUS university.

My second goal is to work on communication and accountability. The student board should be very clear and transparent towards the student community, sharing information about new initiatives, projects and status updates on a regular basis.

For the third point, it’s about the common vision. We need to bridge the cultural differences and establish a path that we want for this European University, both in a short- and a long-term perspective. After all, as long as you have good organization, it will serve as a foundation and a firm reference in everything we set out to do in the future.

➡️ Thinking about the legacy of the previous presidents, what lessons can you take from them?

✅ What I learned specifically from the latest president, Dragos, is the need for regular meetings. We need to hold each other accountable. We also have to set a clear, common vision, a goal that we all work towards. It is also from him that I got the idea to establish an election system for board members. It’s a different experience when you are elected and when you are chosen because you were active.

➡️ In your opinion, what are the three best ways in which EU-CONEXUS could engage its student community?

✅ First, plan in-person meetings to create real connections and create better communication between students.

Second, utilize online tools to bridge geographical obstacles and unite the broader student community through social media, forums etc.

Third – engage students by establishing common courses and programs that students from different countries and backgrounds can attend.

➡️ Your happiest memory in our Student Board so far?

✅ Here I’d like to share two memories: my proudest one and my happiest one.

I was very proud when we had the first student board gathering. It lasted one week and was hosted by La Rochelle University. We worked on different topics every day and we set goals and projects that are still in place today, for example the gender equality project, the environmental issues projects and many others. It was a dense week and we worked a lot, but I was proud because I got to organize everything and the outcome was very important.

The happiest memories were made in my first student board event, ConstructFEST in Bucharest, Romania in 2021. It was my first time in Romania so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was amazing – the food was absolutely delicious, the people were friendly and very welcoming. I met a lot of interesting people and made some genuine connections. It was a very nice event, and on top of that during this event I was elected as a VP of the student board. Definitely an experience to remember!

➡️ Final thoughts for our EU-CONEXUS Community?

✅ When you have a vision, when you are united, when you cooperate – with all the variety of viewpoints, you can really create a strong community with a lot of potential to make a significant, lasting impact. If we can put everyone together in unity and cooperation, we can achieve great things!

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