It all began with 12 Angry Men, a 1957 film that depicts a jury deliberating the guilt or innocence of a man on the basis of reasonable doubt.
Sukhmanjit Singh, a native of India living in Queens, N.Y., was a movie lover, watching films in part to learn English. But 12 Angry Men did more than that. It got Singh interested in the law and set him on a course to study political science with an eye toward law school.
Along the way, he became a leader. Today, Singh is president of Wright State University Student Government.
Singh discovered campus life in slow motion. During his first two years at Wright State, he would attend classes and then go home and hang out with his high school friends.
“But then I noticed that once I started integrating more into this campus, it really helped me understand why Wright State is really important,” he said. “That’s why I love it so much. You have to give it a chance.”
Singh confesses that he was once a shy and introverted person, not comfortable with public speaking or “putting myself out there.” But joining Model U.N. and other campus organizations, plus campaigning for Student Government president brought him out of his shell.
“It’s not really about being comfortable; it’s about putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, how you can really push yourself,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself.”
Singh spent the first five years of his life in Amritsar, a sun-baked, semi-arid city in northwest India near Pakistan. When his parents, who own a shipping company, moved to Queens, it was a foreign-speaking, skyscrapered culture shock. Christmas lights and Santa Claus were especially confusing.
Singh attended and graduated from Ardsley High School in Ardsley, N.Y., a small-town private school.
“What was great about it is that our school had such great teachers,” he said. “That’s where I learned the importance of higher education.”
Another family move brought Singh to Dayton, Ohio, where he encountered cornfields and a bit of a slower pace than the bustle of New York City. Singh settled into Wayne High School and then enrolled at Wright State.
“My culture is very family based,” he said. “I wanted a place where I could still be at home and still be at school.”
Singh, a senior, is majoring in political science. Along the way he got an internship at a Greene County corrections facility, where he checked possessions of incoming inmates.
“It taught me a lot about the criminal justice system,” he said. “Is it really about the rehab or is it just about serving your time?”
Singh is currently torn about whether to proceed with plans to attend law school or go into the student affairs field and continue what he is doing now.
Part of Singh’s job as president of Student Government is to explain university policy to students and help them navigate the process. When he was campaigning, students would tell him their life stories, often detailing the financial and other hardships they had to overcome to get to Wright State.
“It was really inspirational for me because I’ve lived a pretty privileged life, and understanding what people do just to get an education showed me the importance and how Wright State accepts those students,” he said.
Singh’s top goal is to get more students involved in campus organizations and activities.
“We can always focus on student leaders, but that’s a very minute part of campus,” he said. “The goal is to get the student that isn’t part of an organization or anything like that. I think it’s more important to look at what they’re doing. How can we make them be accepted into Wright State’s family?”
Singh said his experience as president has given him personal growth and leadership skills. He hopes that will pay dividends when he appears before potential employers because they often want more than just four years of attending college.
“It’s not the 1960s anymore,” Singh said. “We really have to sell ourselves. And it’s not just the resume; it’s the skills that you gain along the way.”