UNA Student Government Names First International President

Apr. 15, 2011


FLORENCE, Ala. – Ralph Akalonu, from Lagos, Nigeria, never imagined when he first arrived in the United States in 2007 that he would someday lead students as Student Government Association president at the University of North Alabama.

After more than four years of working his way up the SGA ladder as a senator, Senate pro-tempore and vice president of Senate, Akalonu is the first international student to be elected as SGA president for the 2011-12 year. A well-known presence on campus, Akalonu was also the founding president of the African Student Organization in 2007 and has been an active member in the Black Student Alliance during his time at UNA.

Akalonu, a senior-level biology and history double major, stumbled upon UNA by accident when researching potential universities to attend in the U.S. After being accepted by UNA for the spring 2007 term, Akalonu became immersed in campus life and into student government, which he said both American and international students have the opportunity to do at UNA.

“UNA is not too big or too small, and students can do anything they want to do and be anyone they want to be here,” he said. “Anybody can become somebody. The people I will represent are not just the American students, but also the international students. I hope that as an international student myself, I can stress to them that they can get involved and make their mark on the university.”

The 23-year-old plans to graduate from UNA in 2012 and attend graduate school to study biomedical science, where he can work closely with doctors, teach at a university, conduct research or take part in biomedical engineering.

As the university makes landmark decisions and changes during the next few years with its new master plan and looming Division I athletics decision, Akalonu is excited to begin his role as SGA president during such a monumental time for the university. His primary goal for next year is to renew a sense of activism in students and for SGA to be a factor in helping students find their voice on campus.

Akalonu also hopes to increase SGA’s visibility on campus by implementing a new marketing plan to reach out to students to learn about their concerns or issues, instead of waiting to be contacted by the students. He wants to create a more unified SGA next year that includes all branches of SGA, including University Program Council.

“I am excited about next year, as the university is at a critical point where there is a lot going on,” he said. “I’m willing to do anything possible to make sure the interests of the student body are represented. I also want to work with the city of Florence to make sure we have a conducive environment for students.”

For more information, contact the Office of Student Engagement at 256-765-4248.