The president-elect of the Student Government Association takes a seat at a coffee shop on Southeastern Louisiana University‘s campus. He looks like every other college student in the vicinity — wind-blown hair, casual shorts, a polo and boat shoes. A smile spans his face as he opens his mouth to talk about his new position, but he gets distracted.
Students approach Luke Holloway like he is their best friend. For most of them, he probably is. The senior history major has served as an SGA senator, Interfraternity Council president, Kappa Sigma president, Dream Team chairman and orientation leader.
Handshakes and congratulations come every five minutes in support of his next role at Southeastern. As SGA president, Holloway wants the campus to realize it is unified through diversity and can make a difference as one voice. He hopes to open lines of communication between the student body and legislators to make higher education a priority in State Capitol budget meetings. His predecessors have attempted the same task, but Holloway is counting on effective leadership to get the job done this time.
“Leadership is defined by being able to stand up when nobody else does,” Holloway said. “Leaders need to make the tough decisions that have positive, lasting effects. I have made decisions that people hated me for. It’s tough. I want to make sure I serve every aspect of the student body.”
Despite the heavy work order, the 22-year-old looks forward to building a staff that shares his agenda. Mujahed Ahmad, SGA vice president-elect, knows a thing or two about the university’s budget. Last semester, Ahmad served as chair of the budge oversight committee. He also spent three semesters on the SGA senate’s appropriations committee.
“Luke and I hope to engage other leaders of Southeastern to better the university as a whole,” Ahmad said. “We hope to create regular roundtables for presidents of organizations to promote better communication and collaboration.”
Four years ago, roundtable discussions at Southeastern would have never entered Holloway’s mind. He had considered other campuses, but chose the university to stay close to his family, who had spent 13 years living in Saudi Arabia. A native of Covington, Holloway moved to the country at age 3 when his parents accepted teaching jobs with Saudi Aramco, an international petroleum company based in the Middle East.
Holloway attended the company’s schools from kindergarten through ninth grade. He would have started his sophomore year at a boarding school in Saudi Arabia; however, terrorists attacked a compound like the one he had been staying at. The U.S. embassy advised the Holloways to look elsewhere for high school, so they moved back to Covington and enrolled Holloway at Northlake Christian School.
“Luke was able to grow up in a community in which he had many opportunities to meet others from different countries and cultures,” said Ann Holloway, his mother. “He grew up appreciating and respecting others for their differences and also realizing that we are all the same in so many ways. Luke made a great transition back to the States and has continued to show sensitivity to others around him.”
At Northlake, Holloway played basketball and football in addition to running cross-country and track. He also participated in student government. When his college search began, he considered Southeastern for its location, but only expected to enroll at the university for about a year before transferring to another campus.
Then plans changed.
After Holloway started his freshman year, his parents returned to Saudi Arabia with his younger brother and sister. He stayed in Covington with another sister, who now attends the University of Mobile.
Holloway’s motivation for choosing Southeastern had moved across the globe, but that did not stop him from thriving in his new environment.
“I found a family here at Southeastern,” Holloway said about Kappa Sigma, a fraternity that has designated him Man of the Year twice. “That’s why I stayed. I always associated fraternities with bad things. I’ve never questioned my choice because of how much it affected me.”
Holloway said the effect has been positive since day one. He began his freshman year as a nursing major but switched to history when he realized that he wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps. His father teaches eighth-grade history, and his mother teaches kindergarten. Holloway hopes to eventually take his appreciation for history into the classroom with a master’s degree in education from his future alma mater.
“Families breed teachers,” Holloway said. “I see myself in the classroom. I’m looking forward to wearing a tie and Sperrys every day.”
The SGA president-elect’s casual, business-minded personality contributes to his likability factor on campus and in the community.
In April 2010, Holloway met his girlfriend Stephani Chiasson, a Southeastern communication major, while working on Project Step Up, a tutoring service provided by Beacon Light Church in Hammond. Like a typical college couple, they shared their first date over a cup of frozen yogurt at Menchie’s.
“The rest is history,” Chiasson said. “Luke is the most genuine person I’ve ever met. What you see is what you get with him. He allows the Lord to shine through him everywhere he goes. This fact is proven in his ability to be a leader while still remaining a servant to others.”
Holloway takes leadership seriously. He spent a month building his campaign platform around the acronym LEAD to “make sure it was right,” and he plans to execute his new agenda by being effective, accountable and dedicated to the student body.
Before qualification, Holloway informed family and friends that he would not run for the office. A drive to Tommy’s Pizza changed that. On the way to the restaurant, he discussed his plan with a fraternity brother and came up with the words that would become his campaign slogan and key to the SGA president’s office.
“One’s ability to lead is not defined by their position,” he said. The slogan defines Holloway’s approach to his new office. “I’ve never been a big fan of having just one person lead something.”
Holloway is the same guy now as he was before the election. He still starts his day at 6 a.m. when he tunes to a praise-and-worship channel on Pandora radio. He arrives on campus about an hour later, gets a cup of coffee and catches up on the news.
“I live off caffeine,” Holloway said. “I’m excited about the coffee machine in the SGA office.”
By 8 a.m., Holloway is in class. The rest of his day is filled with campus activities, a midday run, afternoon meetings, and an occasional trip to the Pennington Center to shoot hoops.
“Luke has been blessed with the gift of multitasking,” Chiasson said. “He remains focused on senate, his schooling, his job, his fraternity and his personal life and even gets some sleep every now and then.”
As Holloway prepares for his inauguration on April 20, his mother will be flying in from Saudi Arabia to share in the occasion. The president-elect has a plan to guide Southeastern through the turbulence higher education is experiencing in Louisiana. Like any change of office, the true test comes in the ability to put the platform’s printed words into action.
“I’m the type of guy who’s going to give it 120 percent,” Holloway said. “When I’m done, I want people to know that this guy genuinely cared.”