On December 11, 2014, elections were held for the next senators and president of the Student Association at AUIS. Candidates from the Academic Preparatory Program (APP) and the undergraduate program delivered their speeches to their peers. Seven APP students and sixteen undergraduates ran for seats on the student senate, while four contested for the position of President.
The newly elected Student representative, Aro Latif, is an International Studies major, currently in his fifth semester. Latif was born in Sulaimani, but left for the United States at the age of five. After completing his primary education in the US, he returned to his homeland in order to complete his schooling. He explains, he is happy to have returned and is glad that he enrolled at a local university. He believes that studying in Iraqi Kurdistan is an experience which is teaching him a lot about the country’s rich and diverse culture. Latif spends most of his free time involved in student activities, such as the debate club, as well as being active in efforts to help refugees displaced by the recent unrest in Iraq.
Tell us more about your activities.
What excites me most about AUIS is the room for creativity and imagination in organizing events and activities. At AUIS I’ve participated in several clubs, primarily in the debate society as well as the Model United Nations club. A year ago, along with a few friends, we established the Volunteering Matters Group (VMG), which so far has launched numerous fundraisers and aid programs for the Syrian refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq.
How do you describe your experience as a student at AUIS?
It definitely helped me to get familiarized with my own culture and my own country, and being amongst students whom I share the same nationality with has helped me form a better opinion on how to solve a problem in our region.
AUIS is no ordinary university. There are few places in the world where you can place so many different ethnicities together and expect productivity. AUIS is setting a precedent, not in the KRG, not in Iraq, but in the entire Middle East. And it has encouraged me to learn to share ideas, discuss, and debate with others from different backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s easier said than done, but AUIS empowers students to show the world working together is worthier than working against each other. We are leaving footprints.
What do you want do after graduation?
Sometimes I wish the undergraduate program were longer than four years. There is just too much potential for such little time. I’d like to continue studying, that’s what’s on my mind right now. There are a lot of options out there, but the main focus is to continue educating myself.
Did you think you were going to get elected?
I knew I was going to get elected. I ran in 2013 and didn’t win. This time around I guess I knew what to do. When I ran last year, I didn’t work hard enough; I didn't speak to enough students. But this year, I worked harder, I socialized and spoke with a lot of the students, from APPs to academics, I convinced a lot of students that I could do the job.
Why did you want to be the President of the Student Association (SA)?
Why not? For me, it’s about pushing your limits, becoming who you want to be. Early on I realized I enjoy turning things upside-down, public speaking, and playing the devil’s advocate. I found, being part of the SA could help me do some of that.
Do you think SA has the power to make changes at AUIS?
At SA, we are twelve senators and one president; together we can try our best to get things done and turn things around. The SA has already proved that it can make changes at AUIS. So far, the SA has managed to push the faculty to make significant changes in the business department, introduced a second speaker at the seniors commencement ceremony, extended the dinner time for APP students by fifteen minutes, introduced price-tags in the cafeteria, launched a student-to-student event which incoming academic students highly appreciated. That’s just some, I think for a month we’re showing what the student body along with the student association is capable of doing.
What does the SA want to accomplish?
The SA is not just about amplifying the voice of the student body – this year, it’s about demonstrating what 900 plus students are capable of achieving! Our objective is to create cohesion in the student body. Why? So that when we want to challenge a policy or an issue at AUIS, we are representing the entire student body and not just the thirteen members of the SA.