Photo of College Hall Bell Tower
University News

Montclair’s SGA President Advocates for Change from Campus to Capitol Hill

Graduate Spotlight: Richard Steiner-Otoo, a ‘once in a decade’ Red Hawk leader, sets his sights on public service

Posted in: Homepage News, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research, University

Richard Steiner-Otoo addresses students outside University Hall.
Montclair Student Government President Richard Steiner-Otoo in his final speech as Admissions Ambassador doing what he does best, speaking to incoming students about getting involved in campus life. (Photo by John J. LaRosa for Montclair State University)

Years of service in the Montclair State University Student Government Association have made Richard Steiner-Otoo one of the most visible students on campus. From tabling for SGA, speaking at campus gatherings, including President Jonathan Koppell’s investiture, to volunteering and leading prospective students on campus tours, Steiner-Otoo has been living a busy Red Hawk life.

Thanks to his time in SGA, first as a legislator, then attorney general and president the past two years, Steiner-Otoo is clear about his career path in public service after graduation. Specifically, his goal is to work in the People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Eventually, he plans to pursue first an MBA and then a law degree.

“The SGA made me realize that my real passion was in helping people,” says Steiner-Otoo, who will be a Commencement speaker and among the 3,648 students graduating on May 13 at Prudential Center. “I honestly did not know what that would even look like but the exposure to public service here on campus made me incredibly interested in it.”

From the outset, it was clear that Steiner-Otoo, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Geographic, Environmental and Urban Studies and a minor in Political Science, would leave an indelible mark on Montclair and beyond.

Despite his many Montclair commitments and full-time academic schedule, Steiner-Otoo, a member of Phi Delta Theta, also served as president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, which donated of more than 500 pantry items to underprivileged communities, hosted an anti-drug-abuse workshop and held a fundraiser in support of the Drug-Free America Foundation.

“Richard has been nothing short of amazing since he started at Montclair State University,” says Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dawn Meza Soufleris. “From his first month on campus, Richard became engaged in so many aspects of campus and in these four years has succeeded in everything. From his SGA leadership, to Greek engagement, to working multiple campus jobs in both Student Development and Campus Life as well as Enrollment Management, Richard epitomizes what it means to be a Red Hawk, and did all of this while excelling in his academics.”

Richard Steiner-Otoo leads prospective students around campus.
SGA President and Admissions Ambassador Richard Steiner-Otoo gives prospective students a tour of the Montclair State University campus. (Image from video by University Videographer Christo Apostolou)

Mr. Steiner-Otoo Goes to Washington

A summer internship at the White House, one of few public university students to be accepted, “most definitely” helped seal the public service deal for Steiner-Otoo, he says. “I’m pursuing jobs in the White House. Fingers crossed.”

Steiner-Otoo worked in the White House Office of Public Engagement, which “supports the President’s goal of building a government that is inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsible to its citizens,” according to

“Funny enough, I had the idea of working in the government but was unsure if it was the right fit for me, so I decided to try out an internship,” he says. “When I asked myself ‘Where is the government?’ the first thing that popped into my head was the White House, so I looked up their internship program online and ended up applying.

“A highlight of the internship was getting to connect people who generally would have never thought that they would have an opportunity to get their voice heard by the secretary of transportation, vice president and president,” he says. “My office focused on connecting the public – but especially underrepresented communities – to the White House.”

While there, he was able to mark the inaugural celebration of Juneteenth, now a national holiday. It was definitely a “highlight getting to work the Juneteenth celebration on the White House south lawn.”


White House interns, including Richard Steiner-Otoo, pose for a photo in Washington, D.C.
Richard Steiner-Otoo with fellow interns in front of the White House, where he worked in the Office of Public Engagement. (Photo courtesy of Richard Steiner-Otoo)

More recently, Steiner-Otoo was one of only seven Phi Delta Theta members to be selected to join the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition in Washington, D.C., to advocate for anti-hazing policies and freedom of association legislation on Capitol Hill. As a student advocate, he represented more than 600,000 university students across over 700 campuses.

Noting that at least one student a year dies from hazing on a college campus, Steiner-Otoo wrote on his LinkedIn page: “It was a full circle moment to have worked with my chapter over the years to host our annual anti-hazing event at Montclair to working to enact meaningful change across the U.S. that can save lives. By championing legislation against hazing, we’re taking a stand to promote a culture of accountability, empathy, and mutual support within our university communities.”


Richard Steiner-Otoo gestures while discussing his research poster at a symposium.
Richard Steiner-Otoo presents his poster on microplastic pollution in Montclair’s waterways at the University’s Student Research Symposium. (Photo by University Photographer Mike Peters)

Steiner-Otoo says Montclair has also left its mark on him and credits his years for his many opportunities. “In my time here, Montclair State University has provided much more than an undergraduate education, it has transformed my goals and my life,” he wrote recently on LinkedIn. “Montclair made it possible for me to gain research and leadership experience that will shape my future. I participated in a research project on groundwater contamination in California, and another on sea floor mapping in Hawaii. I even secured a University grant for my own research on the presence of microplastics in local New Jersey streams. As president of the SGA, I’ve learned that I can be a catalyst for positive change.”

Steiner-Otoo is proud of his leadership work with SGA. “I think that structurally, we’ve really come a long way, especially since COVID. One of my favorite initiatives that we did this year was to help students with food insecurity, where we provide meal vouchers” to students who are food insecure. Noting that “food insecurity on college campuses has been steadily increasing, posing significant challenges to students’ well-being and academic success,” including at Montclair, Steiner-Otoo worked to secure a $14,000 grant to subsidize meal plans for full-time students in need.

“Through a successful roll out of this project we were able to provide students with support, easing financial burdens during the break and ensuring stress-free holidays,” he wrote on his LinkedIn page in March. “I am proud to have worked alongside Mikayla Houston, University Administration and my executive board on this, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have driven positive change and made a difference.”

In reflecting on his final Admissions Ambassador address to incoming students on Accepted Student Day in late April, Steiner-Otoo wrote on LinkedIn: “It’s been an incredible journey showcasing the school I’ve called home for years. From giving presentations to leading tours, it’s been an honor to share my love for this campus with prospective students. Here’s to the memories and the bright futures ahead for our incoming class!”

The future ahead of Steiner-Otoo looks bright, indeed. “Richard is what I believe to be a ‘once in a decade’ student – someone who can balance it all, excel in everything and lead with his heart,” says Meza Soufleris. “He has been a servant leader for our student community, and I know that wherever he lands after Montclair, he will be unstoppable.”

Richard Steiner-Otoo poses with President Jonathan Koppell and others.
SGA President Richard Steiner-Otoo [top right] with President Jonathan Koppell and others show their Red Hawk red during Homecoming. (Photo by University Photographer Mike Peters)

Richard Steiner-Otoo stands on a chair while addressing a roomful of fellow volunteers.
Richard Steiner-Otoo rallies fellow Montclair students during the 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. (Photo by John J. LaRosa for Montclair State University)

Story by Staff Writer Sylvia A. Martinez.

You May Also Like:

N.J. Quintuplets Make History as They Graduate from Montclair State University

Montclair Football Stars Score Big in Business

From Childhood Tragedy to Commencement Triumph

Students Showcase Research at 2024 Symposium