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UC Student Government Breaks Barriers with Announcement of New President

UC students make history with the election of their first African American female student body president and first Muslim vice president.

Date: 3/9/2018 1:00:00 PM
By: Stuart Lindle
Phone: (513) 556-5087

UC ingot  
On the eve of International Women’s Day, University of Cincinnati students made history with the election of their first black female student body president — a McMicken College of Arts and Sciences double-major in neuroscience and organizational leadership.

Sinna Habteselassie and running mate Umaize Savani, a finance and international business student in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, won the race for 2018-2019 student body president and vice president, the Student Government Elections Facilitation Committee announced Wednesday, March 7.

Photograph of Sinna Habteselassie, UC student government president-elect, and Umaize Savani, UC student government vice president-elect.
Sinna Habteselassie, UC student government president-elect, and Umaize Savani, vice president-elect.

Habteselassie, senator at-large and the current Equity & Inclusion committee chair, and Savani, former outreach director and vice president of the Muslim Students Association, plan to use their platform in student government to empower others.

Being the first black woman elected as UC student body president is humbling, but Habteselassie is optimistic that this election result won’t be the last.

She credits women before her for allowing her to believe that this could be possible, including former vice president Brooke Duncan, who first pushed Habteselassie to run.

“The potential impact on other women, and marginalized groups is empowering,” she said. “I’m a big believer in you can’t be what you can’t you see,” she said. “The potential impact on other women, and marginalized groups is empowering.

Her running mate, Savani, will be the first vice president who identifies as Muslim.

Both have student government experience and are excited to apply their unique and diverse cultural backgrounds to their leadership roles. 

Their platform includes initiatives intended to make a difference in the quality of students’ lives: increased mental health services, a 24-hour prayer and meditation room, and channels for students to submit their own initiatives or report instances of discrimination, prejudice or inequality.

“We want to set a tone that we are advocating for our student body, and push for an agenda that benefits as many Bearcats as possible.”

Planned small grants and stipends, such as the Leadership Engagement Scholarship, will benefit students who are in-need financially. While not full-ride scholarships, they are sustainable.

“We wanted to make a platform that is tangible,” she said. “We kept that as a focus point, in order to create changes that are feasible.”

In addition to her work in student government, Habteselassie is a student mentor with African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC).

Over the years, Director Ewaniki “Ms. Niki” Moore-Hawkins has witnessed the president-elect’s passion for helping others blossom. “I’ve seen her ability to use her voice and her confidence grow,” she said.

Habteselassie’s first initiative with AACRC was to incorporate more multiculturalism in the Greek community at UC. Today she works with incoming freshmen as a mentor in the Brothers and Sisters Excelling (BASE) program. BASE is invested in the personal, cultural, and educational development of Black students while they get acclimated to student life.

“From the day I met her, she always wanted to change the status quo or think of ways that processes and systems could be better,” said Moore-Hawkins.

The election of a female black student body president and a Muslim vice president is a major step forward toward diversity and inclusion in student government.

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