Although her day-to-day life is hectic, junior international business major Nadin Fallah wakes up every morning with one focus: being accessible to all students at UST.
On Jan. 25 2019, the University of St.Thomas approved a new system for student organizations. The change introduced several new leadership positions, including Vice President of the Student Government and President of the Student Body.
Before UST had a student body president, the president of the Student Government Association had so many roles and responsibilities “that it just became unmanageable,” according to Amanda Villanueva, UST’s assistant dean of students.
Fallah was elected the University’s first student body president in March 2019. She says she sees her position comprised of three roles: mediator, representative of the student body, and leadership presence on campus.
As a mediator, Fallah organizes leadership retreats and meetings where all of UST’s organizations can get together and discuss their activities, goals, shared missions and what the University can do to provide necessary resources for student organizations.
Influenced by her upbringing in five different countries, Fallah fostered an interest in international law and the “conversation between different people and how that mediation takes place.”
As a representative of the student body, Fallah focuses on representing the voices of the student body as a whole, even on decisions she might not agree with.
“That’s part of what inspired me to be student body president,” she said. “It was, how can we reach out to those marginalized student populations that want to be a part of this community but don’t know how to penetrate the system?”
Finally, as a presence on campus, Fallah says she tries to make herself accessible to the student body.“I don’t think my position is meant to be some sort of exclusive VIP, you-only-see-her-twice-a-semester kind of thing,” Fallah said.
“At the end of the day, I’m just another student; like, I’m here to get my degree, but at the same time, I want to make this place as amazing as it can be.”
Fallah’s days are packed.
“Part of what I love about this position is that you can’t really get bored of it because it’s something different every day,” Fallah said.
On mornings Fallah has a meeting, she arrives around 8:30 a.m. and has a one-on-one with Villanueva.
“I’m her supervisor,” Villanueva said. “We are trying our best to make sure that, even though we have a couple gaps in staffing, we are still a united front and we support our students in that we are not trying to set them up for failure.”
Fallah and Villanueva talk about Fallah’s progress and goals at their meetings.
“Right now, I’m focusing on making a leadership retreat for all of the organizations on campus,” Fallah said.
After her meeting, Fallah will go to her morning classes, followed by student organization office hours. She ends her day with more afternoon classes.
“Usually, somewhere during the day, I’ll find a chance to go to the library,” Fallah said. “That’s when I really focus on putting away ‘student body president Nadin’ and bring out ‘student Nadin’ and have her just focus on the things that she needs to focus on.”
When she’s not studying or attending class, however, Fallah said the most important thing for her is to be in the office in order to help other organizations and students.
“Four years ago, I would have never imagined myself in this position,” Fallah said.
During her freshman year, Fallah says she was not involved in any campus student activities. That changed after friends encouraged her to apply to the centralized leadership process, a process where the University filters leadership positions into one application, according to Fallah.
The summer before her sophomore year, Fallah was an orientation leader. As a sophomore, Fallah became involved as a freshman symposium mentor. At the same time, she began overseeing the club system by becoming treasurer for the Council of Clubs. Fallah became chair of COC during her junior year.
“It’s crazy how the Office of Student Activities can help to shape leaders,” Fallah said.
Fallah said she would have loved to serve the club system again during her senior year, but that she was getting too comfortable.
Instead, she ran for president, and won.
“I think when you get too comfortable you don’t give the organization everything that it deserves, and you stop growing,” Fallah said.
Her responsibilities have grown along with her leadership. Villanueva said Fallah sits on the Board of Director meetings, has meetings with UST President Richard Ludwick, and speaks at Senate meetings.
So far, Fallah said she has been focusing on attending as many on-campus events as possible. She has also been networking with student body presidents from other campuses to see how “our campus can cooperate or how [UST] can learn from their administrations to make our system even stronger.”
Furthermore, her role also allows her “to create a huge community and to reach out to people who usually we don’t hear from.”
Fallah’s goals for this school year are to strengthen communication between the school and the student body by hosting events at the University seal to gauge students’ feelings about UST’s restructuring and organize open forums.
“Communication ends up being the means through which a lot of my goals are met,” Fallah said. “The goal is to be as open as possible, because at the end of the day, it influences students, and we want the students to know we want to hear what they have to say.”
Villanueva said Fallah understands she holds an immense amount of influence over the student body.
“I think that her power really comes from, not so much of a place of authority, I think it just comes from her own skills and capacities,” Villanueva said.
For her part, Fallah wants to encourage students to discover their own gifts and get involved.
“You have a voice on campus, and that voice is very powerful regardless of the title that you hold,” Fallah said. “Know that there are people here who want to build you up and help make your experience as meaningful as it can be. Don’t be afraid to go for it. Get involved and see where this university experience takes you.”