On March 14, the Election Commission announced the 2019-2020 Student Government, including the student body president and student regent: Aya Yousuf, along with her Vice President, Jabin Moore. In an effort to gain a glimpse into Yousef’s and Moore’s lifestyles and leaderships, I asked them some questions. Read their responses below, and feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any other questions, comments or concerns.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
KB: What was your reaction when you found out you won the election?
AY: It was during class when I saw the announcement, so I stepped out to watch the video and I was first in disbelief. I rewatched it again, started tearing up from overjoy and excitement, and the first people I texted were my family/close friends– and Jabin. It was a small class so we were all close, so by the time I went back in everyone knew of the results. I was overwhelmed with the support, and I will always remain grateful for the students who believed in us.
JM: When I found out Aya and I had won the election I felt a mixture of excitement, shock and relief. While on the campaign trail, it was hard to tell who was really for us or against us. All we could do was try to get students to buy into the vision that we proposed in our platform. After the election results were revealed, I knew for sure that we won because of the many connections that we made across campus, and the fact that all UNO students want to see the elevation of the Maverick culture, and I can not wait to begin the work.
KB: Aya, what are some of your main plans for your presidency? What do you want to see change on campus?
AY: The very first thing we want to focus on is student engagement. We really want to challenge students to be more involved and engaged on campus. Part of that is focusing on promoting student organizations. I would love to see student organizations have the right resources to promote themselves and have higher student involvement. We would love to work on building a community and a network where all students can come together and celebrate the accomplishments we all make on campus, and I think this would create the sense of community and engagement that we currently lack.
KB: Aya, what are some solutions or thoughts you have to some common student issues, such as parking, free speech zones, student fees and the NU budget cuts?
AY: It’s unfortunate to see that common issues such as parking remain unsolved considering it is one of our main issues. I would love to work with Parking Services and other agencies to advocate and find better parking solutions for students. In order to elevate our campus and move forward, we have to start solving these issues instead of dismissing them. As a student myself, I am hopeful that we can start tackling these issues and find alternatives that takes away the barrier of finding parking on campus.
As for free zone speeches, every student is guaranteed the freedom of expression through our first amendment. We should be able to challenge and express our ideas as long as it’s not violent, discriminatory, unlawful, and does not disrupt the mission and values of our campus.
Lastly, the budget cuts we are facing may have drastic impact on our campus. As the student regent, it is my responsibility to advocate and share the stories of Mavericks to make sure they are heard at the state level. Our work for advocating for affordable college tuitions to ensure every student has the resources to attend/graduate will not stop this year, nor next year. We have to continue sharing the unique stories of students and what UNO means to them in order to better advocate for students.
KB: How will your unique perspectives influence UNO as people of color? What does it mean to have leaders who represent marginalized voices in our community?
AY: As far as I am aware, I may be the first student regent from UNO to be of an Iraqi/Muslim background. Escaping war gave me the opportunity to understand the importance of advocating and helping others as much as I can. I wasn’t able to advocate for change back home, but now I have the opportunity to work on behalf of students to ensure the changes and concerns they have are met. Jabin and I both come from minority backgrounds, which motivates us to continue our advocacy for all students, including marginalized groups and non-traditional students. We are so honored and humbled to have this opportunity and be able to pave the way for students who might not feel represented.
JM: Aya and I are not the first POC team to be elected and I think that is an absolutely beautiful thing, because it was courageous students that came before us that made this dream a little more attainable for us. However, I do believe Aya is the first Middle Eastern woman to be elected President, and I also believe I am the first African American male to serve as Vice President. I think this is ground-breaking for UNO, and it says a lot about our culture here. We pride ourselves on being a diverse and inclusive community that encourages a culture where all can feel welcomed to be involved and have their voices heard.
However, it is one thing to preach diversity, inclusivity and equity, but it means a whole lot more when we can see it! To be leaders who represent so many underrepresented marginalized voices in our community gives all of those unheard voices a platform to be heard. Our presence in these roles not only screams, “we are here!” but it also brings notice to the fact that UNO and the surrounding community has what it takes to challenge our limits when it comes to representation.
KB: What motivated you to run for office in the first place?
AY: I wholeheartedly love meeting new students. Everyone has a unique perspective and background, which encourages me to work for students and meet as many as possible. UNO has provided me with wonderful opportunities, networks and experiences, and I want to give back to the community that gave so much to me. I love seeing the changes we make impact students in positive ways. There are so many different issues that had remained unsolved for a long period of time, which motivated me to take action and run as for Student Body President.
JM: When Aya first approached me to run with her as candidate for Vice President I was excited to challenge my own personal limits, as well as advocate for the elevation of the student experience here at UNO. Aya and I both have somewhat unique experiences in which has made us a dynamic team. We actually first met during our junior year in high school through the Nebraska Civic Leadership Program which is sponsored through the Political Science department here at UNO. Through this program, we had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC and expand our interests in using our voices and gaining influence to impact change in our communities.
This experience led us both to find ways to give back and make our voices heard in every capacity presented to us. When I first arrived at UNO I knew I wanted to be involved on campus. I joined various organizations, and I became a member of the Freshman Leadership Council. The Freshman Leadership Council is lead by the Vice President of Student Government and basically serves as a leadership development group that introduces new incoming freshman to unique leadership roles. Through this group I was able to reconnect with Aya, and we continued our involvement and increased our passion for Student Government. As Vice President, I will be able to better promote the Freshman Leadership Council and organizations like it. As an FLC alumnus, I know what it is like to be an incoming freshman who is hungry for opportunities to grow their leadership. It will be my honor to usher in the new freshmen and encourage them to challenge their limits.
KB: Jabin, you mentioned that you will be responsible for leadership in the Freshman Leadership Council. What does that look like for you? What will you bring to the table?
JM: The Freshman Leadership Council is something that I have become very passionate about. This leadership group is a big part of the reason that Aya and I are where we are today. Being responsible for this group of students would mean holding interviews and ushering in the new future leaders of our campus. I will bring a great deal of experience in mentoring and coaching to the table. I have served in various mentorship roles, which have definitely helped me to grow in my own personal leadership. I served as a college peer mentor through the UNO Summer Scholars program, as well as a mentor for the students of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. I have also worked with various middle schools where I facilitated leadership development courses for students who participated in the afterschool programs, I have also done work with the Omaha North Star Foundation, the 100 Black Men of Omaha, and I currently serve as a mentor for the Banister’s Leadership Academy as well as a leader for the youth group at my church.
Through all of these programs I have been able to work with a variety of different students from all types of backgrounds. I think through this, I bring a sense of cultural competence to the table, and I am ready to apply everything that I have learned and developed and use it all to further the work that has already been done with the Freshman Leadership Council.
KB: Aya, at the presidential open forum, you said you wanted to be president to serve the student body, not because you wanted the attention or title. Would you consider your leadership style to be servant leadership? What does serving people mean to you?
AY: Service continues to be a very important value to me. When I ran for Student Body President my thoughts were focused around how I could continue my passion and better serve students. I grew up in a small community in Iraq so the values of helping my community were ingrained in me as a child. At the end of the day, in my opinion, elections are always about the people/students and what their needs are.
KB: Jabin, what vision do you have for the student body in the next year? Why are you confident in your teamwork with Aya?
JM: Aya and I have a vision to “Elevate UNO,” which is solely reliant on giving all of our attention to the wants and needs of the student body. We want to see our student body thriving in Mav Spirit and having the eagerness to be more engaged on campus. We intend to do this with finding ways to better promote students and student organizations. I am confident in Aya and I as a team because our vision for UNO align, and we are both very passionate about making a change and following through with the things that we talk about. I believe our background and unique perspectives will also serve us very well.
KB: What do you like to do in your free time? Tell us a bit about you!
AY: I love binge-watching movies with my family and friends! I have a mini challenge to try as many new local restaurants as I can. I also love traveling. I have mostly traveled inside the U.S. but I would like to expand the horizon a bit and travel to South American countries!
JM: I am truly the “chillest” person you will ever meet. I genuinely enjoy staying in rather than going out, but I do like to run outdoors if the weather permits. If I have free time, and I am not browsing through social media, I am either reading someone’s autobiography, or an inspirational personal development book. I also like various forms of art. I draw or paint occasionally, and I do some photography. I also like to cook and try new foods. When I do go out, I really enjoy trying new restaurants around town.
To see next year’s full Student Government, see the photo below.