Ayat Aribi said she was uncomfortable on campus her freshman year.
As a Muslim woman, Aribi said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln didn’t initially feel like a safe space.
But as her journey through college continued, she said she has felt more included and comfortable after joining several student organizations.
Aribi now serves as the external vice president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.
“We shouldn’t be segregating ourselves,” Aribi said. “Everything is global now. We want to encompass everyone and we want everyone to be comfortable and not feel out of place.”
The junior economics and global studies double major also served on the committee for Husker Dialogues last year.
Husker Dialogues is a mandatory freshman conference which started last fall. Pat McBride, director of New Student Enrollment, was an organizer of the conference.
McBride said the conference allowed conversation between students and volunteers about diversity and inclusion, which is a different method from other universities.
According to McBride, other campuses hire a speaker to give a speech, but UNL creates an actual event. He said the event promotes inclusion between students.
“It’s important to become a world citizen,” McBride said. “You need to get to know people that are not the same as you.”
Aribi said Husker Dialogues has allowed her to help increase inclusion all around campus. And now, with her new position in ASUN, Aribi said these events are important to continue at UNL.
“My role is being the student voice,” Aribi said. “I can resonate a real change with communication. That is the only way to change opinions.”
McBride said these awkward first experiences, like Aribi’s, can be frustrating to new students. He said it can be uncomfortable for students who are sitting next to someone on the bus or eating lunch with someone from a country they have never been to.
“It’s risky for people,” he said. “But it’s rewarding.”
Aribi recommended talking to and learning from people who do not share similar views.
“Talking to someone I disagree with politically allows us to talk about other things,” Aribi said. “Good leaders should be prepared to listen more often than they speak.”
Aribi said with this mindset, she hopes to inspire these values with her position in ASUN.
“Don’t come with your mind already made up,” she said. “Listen to what other people have to say and then make an educated opinion.”
Aribi and McBride both said they are optimistic about what is in store for UNL.
“This year at [ASUN officer] installation, an administrator came up to me and said, ‘This is the most diverse I have ever seen this room,’” Aribi said. “We are here and we are ready to work.”