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Photo by Emily Broad

Beyond the Office: Hafsa Ahmed

As Student Government President for the 2019-2020 academic year, Hafsa reflects on her personal experiences of the past few years and addresses the next generation of NYU Abu Dhabi students.

When Hafsa Ahmed, Class of 2020, stepped onto the stage at the Marhaba Welcome Dinner, over 400 new faces were eagerly waiting to hear what she had to say. As Student Government President for the 2019-2020 academic year, Ahmed spoke through the lens of her personal experiences of the past few years to directly address the next generation of NYU Abu Dhabi students. The Student Government at NYUAD is comprised of an Executive Board, Class Representatives, and numerous committees that focus on various aspects of campus life, with Ahmed leading the group for the 2019-2020 academic year.
As she enters her final year, Ahmed, majoring in Social Research and Public Policy with a double minor in Economics and Public Health, sat down to reflect on the whirlwind experience. Ahmed, who hails from Lahore, Pakistan, warmly recalls her upperclassmen “parents” who helped frame her transition into university life. Now Ahmed hopes to pass along the messages she learned.
Between student assistantships, welcoming several classes of first-years through Marhaba and First Year Dialogue, and active involvement in the Women’s Leadership Network, Ahmed’s four years have centered around community life at NYUAD. For the past two years, Ahmed has also been a core organizing member of the annual Public Health Think Tank, a conference that gathers students from across the UAE to devise public health interventions and learn from experts in the field. Ahmed’s academic and personal passion for public health also extended to her study away in New York when she took part in the Peer Health Exchange.
“She has increased her responsibilities every year but has always done so with humility and with a passion for looking out for all students,” noted Kyle Farley, Dean of Students. “It is always about looking at the role of students, the voice of students and the future of the university.”
Ahmed’s message for the Class of 2023 mirrors this view and looks towards the future of the institution. “You signed up for something that's bigger than yourself,” Ahmed emphasized. “You’re coming into a place that you’re actively shaping... a place that is not set in stone, set in old traditions.”
Ahmed describes the changes that have taken place within Student Government since she first entered a General Assembly meeting early in her freshman year. She specifically notes the growing influence of student voices in academic decision-making, including the addition of elected academic representatives last year.
“Students don't realize how much agency they have on this campus,” said Vongai Mlambo, Class of 2020 and Vice President of Student Government. “We can bridge that knowledge for them so that they can do all the amazing initiatives that they have in mind.”
After meeting in a Calculus class in freshman fall, Mlambo and Ahmed’s overlapping interests soon led to a close friendship, and they now serve alongside each other in the top positions of Student Government.
With such examples of leadership, it is no doubt that the next generation of students are inspired to get involved. Anjanaa Prabagar, Class of 2023, found Ahmed’s welcome speech an important reassurance amidst the uncertainty of Marhaba. “When I got [to university] I wanted to be able to take up every opportunity possible,” shared Prabagar, who recently ran for the position of Freshman Representative. “I’m trying everything and I’m putting myself out there.”
In addition to Student Government programming throughout the year, Ahmed’s vision includes more opportunities for community reflection as well as integrating the growing number of graduate students on campus. While discussing the potential for community building, Ahmed nonetheless recognizes that every individual has their own successes and challenges. “There’s no one way of being an NYUAD student,” Ahmed added.
Ahmed encourages other students to be vocal and proactive in pushing for the changes they envision, just as she has throughout the years. “The past three years have been worth it, this last year will be worth it,” Ahmed exclaimed. “This is just brilliant.”
When student leaders go above and beyond, they shape the university in a way that will last beyond their time here.
Caroline Sullivan is Deputy Features Editor and Joanna Orphanide is a staff writer. Email them at
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