By Diane Chang
When Andrew Itsuno attended Pearl City High earlier in the decade, he had zero interest in student government. Outside the classroom, he immersed himself in wrestling and air riflery, and played chess on the state’s four-time championship team. So when Itsuno came to UH Mānoa in Fall 2006, the freshman surprised even himself by joining the Campus Center Board, which directs the primary venue for student programs and events. He climbed the leadership ladder—serving as board treasurer as a sophomore, vice president as a junior, and president through the 2009-10 academic year.
Well, 22-year-old Itsuno is stepping down from the top post on the Campus Center Board this month, but not to coast through his fifth year at the University. In fact, the double-major in political science and biology just got a whopping promotion. He has been elected president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i (ASUH), the student government body representing every full-time, classified undergraduate on the flagship Mānoa campus.
Itsuno ran a fervent campaign against two opponents, including a football player who got plenty of press and even the endorsement of a newspaper sports columnist. He relied on strategy and passion. “We’re all broke college students, so we really had to find creative ways to reach out,” he said. That included waving daily with a sign bearing his name at the entrance to the Parking Structure, and buying small ads on the popular Sudoku puzzle page in Ka Leo O Hawai‘i.
But he thinks the strategy that really won him 53 percent of the vote was simple: shaking hands. Explained Itsuno, “When you see names of candidates written in chalk on the sidewalk, that doesn’t translate into a vote. But when you approach people, and stick out your hand, they shake it. And once they shake it, that connection is made and you pull them in.” Plus, it didn’t hurt that Itsuno and his supporters had set up a table on McCarthy Mall with a laptop, so students could log onto the voting website right then and there.
The Frear Hall resident advisor is already brimming with ideals and priorities. Itsuno envisions ASUH setting up a used textbook exchange, run like a swap meet; wants to make the expenditure of student fees a more transparent process; and says he will assess the effectiveness of the U-Pass free bus pass and feasibility of a possible mandatory student athletics fee. There’s a whole lot to tackle before graduation next year, after which he’ll likely apply to law school or join the Navy.
In the meantime, though, the son of Maurice and Shizue Itsuno of Pearl City is content to bask in his victory as UH Mānoa’s new Mr. President. “Being able to represent students, even with all these budget cuts, is a great opportunity,” Itsuno said. “Next year is going to be an interesting, great year for ASUH and our student body. I look forward to serving.” To keep track of what’s going on at ASUH, including Itsuno and other incoming officers and senators, see http://asuh.hawaii.edu/.
Diane Chang, B.A. 1979, J.D. 2012, is director of communications for the UH Mānoa campus. See http://manoa.hawaii.edu/.