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Joi Sullivan isn’t big on sleep.
She won the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) presidential election after campaigning until 1 a.m. the night before polls closed, then waking up at 5:30 a.m. to secure a few extra votes.
While she did enjoy a nap the next day after winning the election, Sullivan is no stranger to sleepless nights filled with sports practices, leadership commitments and homework. She has grown accustomed to most social events being planned activities, not spending aimless time with friends.
“It’s just kind of a family thing, we’re always go, go, go,” Sullivan said. “A lot (of my social life) is what I’m involved in. It’s going to meetings and enjoying the people I’m with in those meetings, and having it kind of play a double role.”
The political science senior’s commitments since coming to San Luis Obispo include serving on two ASI presidents’ executive cabinets, being a College of Liberal Arts ambassador and the co-president of political honors society Pi Sigma Alpha – all while graduating in three years and being accepted to Cal Poly’s master of public policy program.
Hard work isn’t the only Sullivan family trait she inherited. Her immediate family all share the same initials, from parents Jim and Julie to her sisters Jamie and Janelle.
“We started with our oldest and named her Jamie … As we continued to have daughters it was like, ‘Well, we can’t not have someone who started with a J,’ so we just kind of kept the tradition going,” Jim Sullivan said.
The Sullivans’ commitment to “Js” carried over to the basketball court, where Joi made a name for herself by drilling 3-point jump shots as her high school’s starting point guard.
She also played softball through her freshman year of high school, then switched to pick-up tennis until she graduated. Increased involvement in ASI shrunk Sullivan’s time for athletics in college, but she played intramural basketball last quarter and is currently enrolled in a racquetball class.
“I love basketball; it’s my favorite sport in the world,” Sullivan said. “I have a decent shot, so there were a few games when it got intense and I just kept hitting everything.”
When not playing sports, Sullivan displayed the same zeal for leadership that has landed her atop the Cal Poly student body. She was her junior and senior class president in high school, as well as the pep club president during her sophomore year.
Jim instilled a passion for politics in Joi while she was in high school, she said. They would pore over news articles to find current events, which she said taught her how to have an intellectual discussion.
As much as her father influenced Sullivan’s career goals, the NBC political drama “The West Wing” had an equally strong effect, she said. Taking AP Government during her senior year of high school cemented Sullivan’s plans to go into politics.
“I’m such a nerd,” she said. “I just remember going through the Constitution line-by-line in that class and getting chills and being like, ‘OK, this is what I want to do.’”
Though Sullivan is not set on a certain type of government work, she has always been fascinated with the armed forces. She says her dream job would either be an intelligence officer in the United States Navy, where her uncle served, or the White House chief of staff.
“I think that the ultimate way you can serve is in the military, hands down,” she said. “To some degree, I would say the military deserves more recognition and praise than the president of the United States does, because they put boots on the ground.”
Most of Sullivan’s early leadership experience at Cal Poly came through the Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ, later renamed Cru. A self-described evangelical who attends non-denominational church, she went to a 400-person Christian high school in Riverside, Calif. where her mother was a teacher and her father was the principal.
While attending Grace Church in downtown San Luis Obispo, Sullivan met Nate Honeycutt, now a psychology senior. She later managed Honeycutt’s unsuccessful campaign for ASI president, including organizing advertisement campaigns with a civil engineering student named Connor Paquin.
Sullivan defeated Paquin and agricultural business junior Jake Rogers on her way to becoming president.
One of Honeycutt’s competitors was then-political science junior Daniel Wasta, who later became Sullivan’s campaign manager. Wasta had told Sullivan he was happy to help with her campaign, but was blown away when she asked him to manage it, he said.
“I had just figured I’d sit this election cycle, and then she came to me right after I had flown back home for Valentine’s Day,” Wasta said. “I kind of had taken a step back, and then she wanted me to help run it.”
Wasta took on most of the stressful organizing through the campaign to keep Sullivan relaxed and focused on talking to voters, he said. Sullivan told him at one point that if he weren’t stressed, she would have been panicking throughout the campaign.
Though Wasta’s political views don’t always fall in line with Sullivan’s conservative values, he said their differences weren’t an issue in the ASI presidential race.
“We give each other a hard time on some issues, but for a student government race, issues like that are never going to come up,” Wasta said.
The ASI Board of Directors must vote on whether to ratify Sullivan as president during their Wednesday meeting. Sullivan, who was recently added to the Board, said she plans to abstain from the vote because of an obvious bias.
Assuming Sullivan is ratified, she will work with current ASI President Jason Colombini through the end of the year to learn the ins and outs of her new position.
Sullivan was elected in part because of her seemingly constant presence out at her booth, meeting new people and listening to their ideas. She pledged to keep the same outgoing, open-minded approach throughout her time in office.
“Nothing’s going to be different about me,” she said. “I’m still going to be the same, approachable, weird, kind of nerdy person.”