Multicultural Student Center hosts fifth installment of Multicultural Leadership Series with MRC chair Ibtisaam Amin

Minority Rights Coalition chair Ibtisaam Amin discussed leadership and struggles for Muslim students at the University


During her second year, Amin was on the publicity committee for the MRC and was appointed chair of the MRC board for the 2018-19 school year. 

Christian Guynn | Cavalier Daily

Third-year College student and chair of the Minority Rights Coalition Ibtisaam Amin spoke to over 20 people in the Multicultural Student Center about her leadership experiences with the MRC and the Muslim Institute for Leadership and Empowerment Tuesday in the fifth installment of the Pathways: Multicultural Leadership Series.

The Pathways Multicultural Leadership Series is one of many events put on by Multicultural Student Services. The series has allowed minority students in various leadership positions throughout the University to discuss both their experiences as a minority in student leadership and their goals for the future with the student community at large.

Amin is the fifth speaker for this series and was preceded by Alex Cintron, a fourth-year College student and Student Council president, third-year College student Derrick Wang, who one of five honor representatives for the College and newly appointed Board of Visitors student representative, Joe Malasa, president of the Organization for Young Filipino Americans and third-year College student Natalie Romero, student director of the Multicultural Student Center. 

Amin pulled from her own experiences within the MRC — an umbrella organization that oversees eight member organizations including the Asian Leaders Council, the Black Student Alliance, the Latinx Student Alliance, the Middle Eastern Leadership Council, the Muslim Students Association, the Native American Student Union, the Queer Student Union and United for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity. It also facilitates programs and initiatives to develop each minority community, working to foster relations between the minority and non-minority communities at the University. 

During her third and fourth semesters at the University, Amin was on the publicity committee for the MRC. Her desire to become more involved in the minority community led her to apply for the position of chair on the MRC board for the 2018-19 school year. 

As chair, Amin hoped to foster a safe environment for minority students of all types, improve communications between MRC member organizations and promote the MRC as a place of support and resources. She also wanted to act as a platform from which they could build themselves off to form their own unique voices within the community at large. 

“One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is that you can learn so much from the people around you that are different from you,” Amin said. “Talk to anyone and everyone ... I think we all can be really enriched by people around us and we can learn a lot from each other.”

So far, in her tenure as chair, Amin has learned to not only look within her own community to learn and grow but also to look outward. 

“All the different minority groups on Grounds are really strong,” Amin said. “With the MRC, the aim is to bridge some of those gaps and to understand that we work better when we’re together and that there is something to learn from one another.”

MILE is an organization meant to specifically provide resources to, mentor and help Muslim students at the University network which has also shaped Amin’s leadership journey. 

“When I came into U.Va., there really was only one Muslim association,” Amin said. “When I saw some of the other communities who had 15 … it’s really cool to see MILE fill some of those gaps and be another space for Muslim students to exist.”

Amin also spoke of the challenges that accompany being a leader of a minority organization compared to other organizations on Grounds, including a lack of available resources and space for minority student groups to meet. 

“I think the biggest thing is the gap in the resources that are available to minority student organizations,” Amin said. “The MRC has existed for nine years and we, along with a lot of other minority student organizations, just don’t have the capacity to retain our institutional memory.” 

In further detail, Amin explained that much of the history of the MRC remains unknown due to the outside pressures that multicultural students face in addition to being simply being students at the University. 

At the conclusion of the event, members of the audience had a chance to voice questions they had concerning the talk. 

“A lot of students who are drawn to social justice or advocacy … are going to be drawn to Batten or law,” Romero, who was in attendance during the event, said. “What would you say to students who feel that that is the route to go?”

Amin responded by saying that it is possible for University students to pursue social justice and advocacy issues in areas of the University that may not be typical, citing her experience as a Media Studies major as an example. 

“That route works for a lot of people but I think that the way that some of those schools are set up ... perpetuate the system of maintaining the status quo and doing the same things,” Amin responded. “I’m really glad that I am studying Media Studies and am able to... see there is more than one way to create change and achieve social justice.”

Moving forward in her final year and a half here at the University, Amin sees the need for growth at the University. Specifically, Amin identified that there needs to be more space for multicultural students, including more religious spaces for Muslim students. 

“We have a really big Muslim population at U.Va., and the only space that has really been semi-dedicated to the prayer needs of Muslim students is on the fourth floor [of Newcomb],” Amin said.

In her parting words, Amin had advice for students of all years and backgrounds at the University. 

“Know that there is a space for you at U.Va,” Amin said. “There are a lot of wonderful people here and although a lot of what this institution and this country stands for [is] systems that oppress a lot of people and harm a lot of people, there are people here who care about you and who are actively working to make this school a better place.”

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