Cal Poly graduates were not the only ones deserving of a “congratulations” during graduation weekend. Two Cal Poly alumni — former Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Joi Sullivan and former ASI Chief of Staff Jake Rogers — got engaged.
Before Sullivan was to graduate from Cal Poly on the Saturday morning of graduation weekend with a masters degree in public policy, Rogers popped the question.
“I was super nervous,” Rogers said. “I felt like I was going to puke.”
After graduating with a B.S. in agricultural sciences in 2015, Rogers joined the Marine Corps.
“I knew for over a year that I wanted to come back for graduation,” Rogers said. “I didn’t know when the next opportunity would be to be around all her family and friends and I knew that was crucial for what she wanted in an engagement.”
After not seeing each other for five months, Rogers arrived in California around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday for Sullivan’s graduation. At around 7 a.m., they hiked up to Monarch Grove where Rogers proposed.
“I was obviously stoked,” Sullivan said. “He was nervous and I was just excited because I knew what was about to happen.”
Where it all began
But before Sullivan and Rogers were a couple, they were competitors for ASI President.
The first time they met, the only thing Sullivan could think about was that she had to give him a good handshake.
“I remember thinking to myself to make it a good handshake,” Sullivan said. “It was because I was meeting my opponent and I wanted to slightly intimidate him and show that I had a solid handshake.”
Quite the gentleman, Rogers took off his hat to shake her hand.
That’s not the only thing that struck Sullivan.
“During campaigning, he intrigued me a lot. He was a legitimate cowboy who trains horses,” Sullivan said. “I had never met anyone with a lasso.”
Though the two were opponents, Rogers and Sullivan soon developed a certain level of camaraderie, and were able to say things to one another that most in the heat of a presidential race would not feel comfortable verbalizing.
“I remember telling Joi while we were campaigning in the UU Plaza, turning to her and telling her saying ‘You’re going to win this election;’ and her being like super nice ‘Oh no you’re going to win,’” Rogers said. “But I was like ‘No, I’m not going to win and I really don’t care, it’s cool, you’re going to win the election.’”
After Sullivan was elected ASI President, she chose Rogers as her Chief of Staff. They started dating in June, but made an agreement to stay dedicated to ASI.
“We were so focused and we knew that we had one year to impact Cal Poly,” Sullivan said. “We focused on ASI rather than on us, which was good because we got a lot of things done.”
They became a couple in June, but their fellow ASI members did not know they were a couple until November. They had already had success with their voter registration video, so what better way to tell the staff they were dating than with another rap? This time, to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song.
“Jake had a knack at coming up with raps,” Sullivan said. “We created a rap to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air song to announce that we were together.”
Despite the progress the duo made in ASI, they decided that working for one another was not the way to go.
“It was good in that we could provide support on both the emotional and professional side,” Rogers said. “It also had its challenges in that it felt like we were always at work because when we were hanging out, we were talking about ASI.”
Working together in ASI was not the only place the couple experienced challenges. For their first date, they hiked up to Reservoir Canyon where they ended up getting lost for more than five hours.
“He hadn’t been there before and I had, he thought he had found the right trail,” Sullivan said. “I kept telling him this is not the trail and it ended up being a cow trail.”
But, according to Rogers, “It was completely Joi’s fault.”
Getting lost on their first date didn’t deter the couple, but rather had the opposite effect.
“We both think that’s a really funny story and we always have a good laugh about it,” Sullivan said.
June 2016 marks the second anniversary of dating for the newly engaged couple. They have not yet decided on a wedding date.