Three first-year students are campaigning for two open positions on ASW Senate and the opportunity to spark change at Westminster College.
Online voting for first-year senate elections opened Sept. 19 at 8 a.m. on Canvas. The election closes Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. with the results being posted on ASW’s office Sept. 23 at 10 a.m.
ASW Senate has senators representing each academic year on campus who are responsible for policy-making and addressing student concerns. Once elected, these first-year students will take part in policy and legislation changes throughout the school year while working to make change.
“It’s important to have first-years in Senate,” said Rebecca Blanton, ASW speaker of the senate, in an email. “Not only to fill the positions defined for students to hold within our governing body, but to help set a precedent in the eyes of first years so that they know that ASW is here to represent their needs and concerns throughout their time on Westminster’s campus.”
The Forum spoke to the three candidates, asking why they chose to run and what change they want to see on campus. Some answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Westminster?
A: I came to Westminster College because of the liberal arts aspect of it. I’ve always been involved in communities and social justice work so I thought that it was a great environment for inclusivity, diversity and just building equity.
Q: Will you talk more about your social justice work?
A: I am one of the national chief strategists for March For Our Lives. I was the former executive director for Utah, I do a lot of Black Lives Matter work. Just showing up, it’s not always about leadership for me – it’s just about being there. And I used to run a non-profit called Advanced and Growth Education in Africa in conjunction with the United Nations. So just a lot of social development, social progress work that I like to engage with.
Q: Why do you like to engage with those kinds of things?
A: In 1996, my father and mother immigrated to the United States of America from the war-torn country of Somalia. Growing up, my parents always taught me the importance of equality [and] equity because in that country — when the civil war broke out in 1991 — it was all about injustice and fighting for power.
So, my mom always taught me about dismantling oppressive systems. My mom and dad coming here was a constant battle for them so I want to make sure that future generations of immigrants and people of color or different marginalized communities have an easier time.
Q: How do you think coming to Westminster will help you do that?
A: I think the education here is super important. All of my classes, I always look forward to because I learn something new every day about the ways in which people interact with each other. […] It’s exciting to hear different perspectives on different ideologies and different political parties and just to understand the ways in which social problems construct and deconstruct. […] I started this work when I was 13 years old, so when I was 13 years old I only knew what I heard from my parents or what I researched on my own. So coming to those [conclusions] really blows my mind.
Q: When you were 13, what was it that inspired that work to start being done?
A: [My family] actually moved to Egypt in 2005 because we saw a lot of Islamophobia in the United States as a Muslim-American family. It was a hard time, my mom was crying in her 2001 license [picture] because of the 9/11 attacks. Just really seeing that xenophobia and that hatred from people. When I came back, I just really wanted to embrace difference and show people what it’s really like. And 13 just seemed like a good year to start rebelling, so.
Q: Do you know what you want to study while you’re at Westminster?
A: I’m actually entering with an associate’s degree so I’m almost forced to know what I’m doing already. But I’m studying international relations and human rights on a custom major.
Q: What do you want to do with that?
A: I do a lot of work with the United Nations so I want to go into that later on in life and run for political office in Utah. I also want to continue to go to law school and study criminal law and constitutional law.
Q: What kind of things do you want to get involved with on campus while you’re here?
A: A lot of the stuff I want to get involved with on campus is spaces that lack diversity. ASW actually came as a shock to me that it didn’t have a lot of diversity in it […] so I wanted to spice it up a little bit. Add a little bit of color in there. [Also] slam poetry, it’s always been a way that I love to express myself and my work so I do a lot of activism that’s funnelled through speech and storytelling. […] Areas that promote change and motivate people to be more aware and promote acceptance.
Q: Why did you apply for ASW Senate?
A: My campaign is running on “Vote Diversity, Vote Inclusion, Vote Daud” which is about not about me being the token black person on ASW but instead me working with other clubs and other avenues to try to promote change and try to promote acceptance. Although Westminster does that very beautifully here at this campus and I feel very welcomed a month in, it’s about doing more. There’s always more we can improve on, always more we can do. It’s also about bridging divides between sports and performing arts and other clubs like the Latinx club, the Black Excellence club – just bridging that divide so it’s a community and not a bunch of little communities that make up a school.
Q: And as a final question, if people could only know one thing about you what would you want that to be?
A: I want everyone to know that my pet camel back in Egypt is the most beautiful thing. […] I named it David because my name is Daud and that means David in Arabic so we’re like twins. But yeah, my camel David is wonderful.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Westminster?
A: I chose to come to Westminster because I really enjoy the small tight-knit community and I wanted to be far away enough from home that I could live on my own and experience the college living but still be close enough that if anything ever happened it would just literally be a drive or plane ride away […] from Boise.
Q: What attracts you about a tight-knit community?
A: I really like how when I was at my Griffin Gear Up, they were talking about how the professors know you on a first-name basis and that you’re not just another number. I kind of wanted to go to another school but I want to know my community and I want to know the people in my class instead of just saying, ‘Oh, I think you’re in my Psych 101 class.’
Q: Do you know you want to get involved with on campus?
A: I want to get involved with anything and everything. I had so much fun going to capture the flag […] that ASW put on. I had fun meeting new people at the club fair. Just signing up for clubs.
Q: Do you have an idea of which ones you want to check out?
A: I signed up for French club and also indoor soccer.
Q: Why did you choose to run for Senate?
A: I chose to apply because I was really involved with my student council in high school and that was another main reason to come to Westminster, because I like how small the campus was and how I got to know people in the leadership program.
Q: What kind of things did you do in your student council in high school?
A: I literally did everything from canvassing to planning prom, going to all of the student events. […] I literally lived at school.
Q: Is that something you want to replicate at Westminster?
A: Yeah, I had so much fun meeting new people and getting to know new people.
Q: What kinds of things would you want to accomplish in ASW?
A: I really want to be there for the students and advocate for what the students want to see happen.
Q: What things do you think they want to see happen?
A: People, I think, want to see Shaw change because people are tired of having a meal plan, especially when they’re in the apartment-style. Like people asking, ‘Why am I paying for a meal plan that I’m not going to use?’
Q: As a final question, if people could only know one thing about you what would you want that to be?
A: I’m really outgoing. No matter who you are if you want to sit down and talk, I will talk to you. […] And I have such a travel bug. I love to travel.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Westminster?
A: I chose to come here because I really wanted to go to a school that was a) small but b) very inclusive and I’ve always known Westminster was that exact school. I had a few other options but I figured that coming here would be the best. […] Because it’s a relatively small school, I’ll be able to build all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people.
Q: Why does a small school appeal to you?
A: I know that in order for me to learn and to want to learn I have to be around people that want me to also learn and are going to not just help me but build on top of what I learn so they can learn something from me as well.
Q: Do you know what you want to study yet?
A: I know that I want to go to medical school so I’m on the pre-med path and my tentative major as of right now is going to be English, but that’s also subject to change [because] it’s only my first year.
Q: What interests you about English?
A: I’ve always loved reading and being able to analyze all different types of text, especially within literature. I’ve always loved to read literature and either apply it to my life or learn something from it. I love to read different kinds of stories from different kinds of people. […] I think it helps you grow as a person.
Q: What interests you about going on the pre-med path?
A: I’ve known since I was a kid that I’ve always wanted to help others and I’ve always known that going into the field of medicine was one of the best ways to do that because I can learn a lot myself and I’ll be well-educated but I’ll also be able to help a number of different people.
Q: What kind of things do you want to get involved with on campus over the next few years?
A: I’ve always wanted to get involved with all kinds of different things, especially now I’m trying to be more open-minded so I’m really willing to do anything and explore on campus. As of right now, one of my interests is […] College Democrats of Westminster. I’ve been wanting to join that because I have been a lot more politically outspoken in the last few years. […] And not just political stuff but also just activism and being able to help others while also learning something about myself.
Q: Have you done activism before?
A: Yeah, my senior year of high school I was a March For Our Lives Utah brand ambassador, there’s about 50 or 60 different kids around the state that were ambassadors. Because of that, I really became passionate about the issue of gun violence especially after the shooting in Parkland and all that happened. I’ve done that. As far as other forms of activism, I’ve gone on two separate humanitarian trips with a non-profit called Youthlinc. My junior year of high school I was a student on Team Kenya […] and this last summer I was an alum leader on Team Cambodia. It was life changing.
Q: Why did you choose to run for ASW Senate?
A: I always regretted not doing student government back in high school and I feel like now that I’m on a college campus I feel like the students have a lot more of a voice than you would if you were in high school. I feel like when you’re in student government in high school there’s only so much you can do, but here at Westminster you have so much potential for change. I know Westminster is very inclusive and relatively diverse, but with ASW Senate I have the opportunity to meet more people and hear a lot more stories about the different kinds of people here and actually be able to make a change for myself.
Q: What kinds of things would you want to accomplish in that position?
A: I don’t have any set goals yet, I just want to be able to talk to all kinds of people and really listen to what their concerns are on campus. […] I just want to be able to listen to people and be able to serve in their best needs both individually for each person and also collectively as a group.
Q: And finally, if people could only know one thing about you, what would you want that to be?
A: I would say the only really interesting thing about me is that my birthday is on Christmas Day […] which is actually the least common day to be born in the world. Even more rare than Leap Day.