Get to Know GWAA President Maxwell Gocala-Nguyen


Get to Know GWAA President Maxwell Gocala-Nguyen




Maxwell Gocala-Nguyen, M.A. ’16, was initially drawn to George Washington University due to its welcoming and diverse atmosphere.



Today, as the president of the GW Alumni Association (GWAA), he is driven by a powerful vision—to cultivate an environment that champions inclusivity, enabling everyone to experience the same sense of belonging that he felt upon joining the GW community.

Gocala-Nguyen spent his formative years in Youngstown, Ohio. He pursued his undergraduate studies at Youngstown State University, where he openly embraced his identity as a gay man. However, as he contemplated graduate school, he yearned for a more diverse environment, which ultimately led him to the vibrant city of Washington, D.C., and more precisely, GW.

Upon arriving on campus, Gocala-Nguyen immediately immersed himself in the GW community. He assumed a role on the Finance Committee of the Student Association and took the lead in advocating for the establishment of a campus food pantry, now known as The Store.

His passion for service continued to drive him even after graduation, leading him to dedicate three years to the GWAA Executive Committee before taking up the presidency this summer. “GW Magazine” caught up with Gocala-Nguyen to learn about how he envisions his role as GWAA president, his favorite only-at-GW moment and the words of wisdom he lives by.  


“GW allowed me to grow in my education, my leadership and myself. I want to be able to give that opportunity to the next generation.”

Maxwell Gocala-Nguyen


Why is staying connected to the university important to you?

Education has a unique ability to allow people to change themselves in a positive way. GW was really that place for me where I was forced to make changes, because I didn’t know anybody here and I was stepping outside my comfort zone as newly out. GW allowed me to grow in my education, my leadership and myself. I want to be able to give that opportunity to the next generation, and not only the new faces that are coming in but also those people who are returning to school and looking to make that change within themselves and their lives. As GWAA president, I hope to keep that spirit alive beyond graduation and foster an inclusive community built upon the many experiences we’ve all shared at GW. 

What is your favorite only-at-GW moment?

When I graduated in 2016, we were on the Mall for Commencement, and President Obama and Michelle Obama were going on a trip, so Marine One flew over the ceremony and stopped above us. I’m not going to say I could see them waving, but it certainly looked like they were, so it was a very nice moment just to see the Obamas looking down at our celebration and hopefully cheering us on.

What do you hope to accomplish as GWAA president?

We have a large alumni network. There’s over 325,000 individuals, which speaks to not only the history of GW and the vast expanse that we’ve been around but also the unique perspectives that our university can share. So it’s about reengaging people who may not be engaged, but also keeping people engaged and creating a more cohesive community. I want people to know that they shouldn’t feel afraid to stop me and say, “Hey, you’re Max, let’s have a conversation.”

Do you have a favorite quote or words of wisdom that you live by?

The old adage that there’s beauty in everything and that everybody has something to offer and teach you that you may or may not know already. Hearing people’s stories and what they’re passionate about and why allows me to get a new perspective and try to be a better person. At the end of the day, if I can learn something from someone new and meet a new face at least once a day, it’s my small way of trying to make the world a better place.