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A Ugandan Gem being refined at Strathmore University

Daniel Ochieng, current President of Strathmore Student Council

Life at the university is a novel experience, it’s an interesting and challenging time. Many students reckon it’s a time to explore, to mature, to grow, and to have fun without too many worries. The atmosphere of responsibility and freedom at Strathmore University in Nairobi, the first multi-racial College of Arts & Sciences in pre-colonial Kenya, has been a catalyst for Daniel Ochieng’s leadership journey.

The 4th year Bachelor of Commerce, Finance (major) student is the current President of the Strathmore University Student Council – the governing body representing the students at the University. The towering 6 feet tall, young man and a passionate leader, is a member Anti-Corruption International, an organisation which trains leaders to shun corruption. He has lofty dreams – he envisions a great change in leadership for East Africa and Africa at large.

Tell us about yourself?

I am the 3rd born in a family of five members. My family’s roots are in Northern Uganda, but I have grown up, lived and studied in Kampala City. I am a proud alumnus of St. Mary’s Kitende School for A’Levels and Namilyango College for O’Levels.

You are of Ugandan origin; how did you maneuver to top student leadership in a university in a foreign country?

In Strathmore University there is no segregation, neither of religion nor of nationality and tribe. The opportunities are available to all students. Once I discovered my passion to be a leader, I pursued it with resilience and courage, and I must say, I have achieved some goals that I set out. I am extremely ambitious, that helps too.

Is this your first time to hold a leadership position?

 Not really, during my final year in primary school, I became a class representative. While in secondary school, I held several leadership positions; organizing secretary for debate club, political editor for the school magazine and leading the school choir. At home I was in charge of my siblings while two elder siblings were studying in a university away from home.

 What values do you uphold as a leader?

 I find it important to value honesty, integrity, reliability and service. One cannot be a good leader without the desire to serve, otherwise you will be in pursuit of personal benefits.

How do you strike the balance between studies and leadership?

 I must admit, it’s a challenge. The rigour of Strathmore’s programmes necessarily means that I cannot escape from assignments, continuous assessment tests (CATS), lecturers, and leadership meetings.

I have found it key to develop good time management skills to cope with busy schedules, and besides, I read a lot books that guide me on balancing my life.

 Key achievements and challenges you have experienced as a student leader?

My fellow Student Council colleagues and I have engaged the student body and mobilized about 800 students to participate and network in global events and conferences. For example, the World Climate Simulation Exercise held at the University recently. Previously, many students did not show interest in such events.

I have made known the benefits of attending such forums, and now students love such forums and look forward to attending them as opportunities for career development and networking. It gives me a sense of pride when a student walks up to and tells me ‘thank you for providing this opportunity.’

On the challenge side, students are young and they have dynamic needs, one cannot always satisfy or please everyone. As a leader, you seek to inspire but never to impress, striking this balance while meeting expectations of students is intricate.

Do you look up to anyone to guide you as a leader?

My father Dison Okumu is my greatest inspiration, he says that, hard work never kills a man but gives him what he wants. He has handled numerous leadership positions, and uses dialogue to solve any grievances that arise.

Has Strathmore University made any impact on your leadership journey?

Yes of course. The mission in Strathmore is to provide all-round quality education. The leadership training and exposure at the University is exceptional. There are many mentors and interactions with corporate leaders; these nurture ones leadership attitude in a very practical sense.

The array of co-curricular activities at SU is amazing, I formed the Chinese club, I was the president of that club within Strathmore, that was a milestone in my leadership experience, I then realized my leadership potential and dared to try the top seat of the students’ body.

Your dreams in the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5 years, I see myself making a revolution in leadership perceptions in East Africa and Africa in general. Currently, I am a member of an organization known as Anti-Corruption International. I would love to see it expanded throughout East Africa and have an impact in the region.

What advice do you give leaders who look up to you?

A positive attitude and humility go a long way in making a person more humane. My personal mantra is, ‘whatever you do, give it your all – do it wholeheartedly, and you will definitely achieve your goals’

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