Ashmita Ahluwalia

How Saying “Yes” Changed Everything for Ashmita Ahluwalia

  • BY Diego Torres
  • June 3, 2024

Ashmita Ahluwalia grew up so shy that even raising her hand in class felt like a humongous task, but despite this, she graduated from Newark Memorial High School with top marks. "I didn't realize how much I missed out on throughout my high school experience until I got involved in my senior year." Her shyness often hindered her from fully embracing the opportunities presented to her at school.

Despite her reservations, Ashmita deliberately chose to attend Cal State East Bay, drawn by its proximity to home, the legacy it held within her family and its offering of her desired major in Human Resources. Ashmita had decided that her time at East Bay would be different and that she would be more involved than she ever was in high school. She wanted to take that step out of her comfort zone finally, and her way of doing that was just saying yes to every opportunity that came her way. From joining Alpha Phi to Delta Sigma Pi, she wanted to unlock the potential she was holding back, and through the experiences she gained in these clubs, she started to speak out more. She was eventually elected as Alpha Phi’s Assistant Director of Marketing. 

As a member of Alpha Phi, Ashmita initially felt some hesitation about being part of a sorority that seemed to favor extroversion. However, as time passed, she became more invested in the sorority’s activities, which gradually spilled over into her academics. The more she got involved, the more Ashmita noticed a significant shift in her demeanor. Her shyness no longer confined her, and she began to actively engage with her classmates, confidently speaking up during class discussions and even taking the initiative to organize gatherings on campus. Newfound confidence led to her to eventually run as Associated Student Incorporated (ASI) President. “Serving as ASI’s President allowed me to find my passion for advocacy which is a field I would’ve never envisioned myself in otherwise.”

During her high school years, whilst working at Starbucks, Ashmita met Kabir Dhillon, a former Executive Vice President of ASI at Cal State East Bay. Dhillon’s passion for ASI sparked Ashmita's interest in student government, which she saw as an opportunity to immerse herself in a diverse community and make a meaningful impact. This encounter led her to join ASI in the summer of 2019 as a First-Year Intern and Director of Wellness in 2021.

Her roles proved pivotal in shaping her decision to run for President because it inspired her to work on addressing mental and physical health issues on campus. Ashmita saw the potential to affect even more significant change. “Through advocating for students, I discovered a deeper understanding of myself and the power of standing up for what matters." A powerful statement and platform to run. In May of 2022, Ashmita became ASI President/CEO and already had ambitious goals to revitalize student life and foster the sense of community Cal State East Bay was lacking. She envisioned ASI as a platform for career guidance and a hub for student engagement, striving to make it a presence throughout campus. Accessibility was paramount to her leadership, as she committed herself to being constantly available and responsive to student concerns.

I checked in with Ashmita one year after she graduated from Cal State East Bay. Today, she is working at Lockheed Martin, a global aerospace and defense company, as a recruiter focusing on attracting women in STEM and aviation roles. Reflecting on her time on campus, it is clear that those four years changed her for the better. "Leaving East Bay, I felt more confident and well-rounded than when I entered.” 

Ashmita Ahluwalia's journey from high school to Cal State East Bay to clubs to the presidency is a testament to the power of stepping outside one's comfort zone. Her story is about overcoming shyness, embracing new experiences and advocating for change. Her guiding principle, 'say yes to as much as you can', is a powerful reminder about the importance of trying new things and challenging yourself to grow as an individual.