​​Opportunity: That's what makes the California State University unique, says new Board of Trustees student member Emily F. Hinton.

"When I look back, the CSU— through all of its resources and opportunities — helped transform me into the strong leader I am today," Hinton says. "I now have this strong sense of who I am and who I want to be."

A first-generation student, Hinton found herself "going with the flow" in high school and into her freshman year of college, not really sure of her purpose or what she envisioned for her life.

"Freshman year you're trying to figure out who you are and what you want your college experience to be. It can be challenging," the Modesto native shares. "As a first-generation student, there were a lot of roadblocks for me. It was difficult and exhausting and no one was encouraging me."

It was only because of the persistence of a high school counselor that Hinton even considered applying to college.

She would go on to choose Sonoma State University for its affordability, accessibility and welcoming campus.

After struggling to find her passion and her place during her freshman year, Hinton made a conscious decision as a sophomore to become more involved and to take a positive approach to her time on campus and her studies. 

Soon, she found herself immersed in student government groups, the Women in Philosophy club, water polo and rock climbing — and loving every moment of it.

"All of a sudden, all of these opportunities started introducing themselves, all of these amazing things became attainable," says Hinton, a political science and philosophy double major with a concentration in pre-law and applied ethics.

'Find Your Place on Campus'

The 21-year-old is now a very involved student and has served as chief executive officer and president of the Sonoma State University Associated Students since 2016. 

"I am very glad I chose the CSU; I don't think I would have had all the opportunities I have had at Sonoma State if I had chosen to go to school somewhere else," says Hinton, who aspires to be a human rights lawyer.  

Hinton was appointed the nonvoting student trustee by Governor Jerry Brown in June 2017. She joins voting student trustee Jorge Reyes Salinas from California State University, Northridge. The two represent the CSU's 479,000 students on the 25-member CSU Board of Trustees (BOT).

Hinton will serve on the Board through 2019.

In her new role, the Rohnert Park resident looks forward to serving as a voice for students, as well as building her leadership and advocacy skills.

"I'm just so excited to learn more and to be this messenger and advocate for students," she says. "This feels exactly like what I should be doing at this time in my life."

Back at Sonoma State, Hinton finds satisfaction in speaking with freshmen struggling to find their place, as she once did.

"I really encourage new students to go to all of the on-campus events," she says. "Get out of your dorm; explore the campus. Find your place on campus."

A self-described "advocate of the CSU," Hinton hopes her position on the BOT will allow her to shed a light on all the ways the CSU has improved her life and way of thinking, as well as inspire others.

"Once you are in the CSU, students have all of these resources available to them," she says enthusiastically. "The (CSU's) doors are always open to its students."​​