Lack of Representation of Middle Eastern and North African Students

“I have people deny my experiences because the government categorizes me as white…I never considered myself to be white, so it was a shocking and confusing moment for me filling out college applications.”

– Ayah Aldosari, second-year student at Ohio State University

The quote above describes a disappointing and often frustrating reality that many Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) students face during their undergraduate education and beyond. Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality have always been a messy topic for student demographics over time. Integrating into such open systems such as higher-education campuses and environments can contribute to the muddling identity crises’ that many MENA students may be actively facing.

Here are a few accessible ways that MENA students can find the individualized representation they deserve to help them navigate their higher education and career journeys.

  • Starting an On-Campus Club and Joining a Student Organization: This is the most feasible way that students can participate and express their desires to promote whatever mission statement or beliefs they hold. In the case of MENA students, creating organizations on the basis of differing ethnicities, religions, and cultural events can be a fun and proactive way to represent themselves.
  • Joining existing Professional/Networking: Many times, while an emerging affinity community may not have an active presence on campus, they may not be the case at the national organization level. Looking into joining programs like honor societies, cultural associations, and academic organizations can be a practical testament to the cultural community’s presence.
  • Word of Mouth: This can go hand in hand with promoting an existing or developing club or student organization. When trying to foster a sense of community and awareness, there’s arguably nothing better than validation and discussion among your own peers. Being open about your struggles and longing for a group to publicly and proudly identify with has more power than most people give credit for.
  • Center for Career Development MENA Affinity Community: The UConn Center for Career Development recently added the MENA Affinity Community Page to our website. This initiative speaks to the need for a re-evaluation of demographic brackets and peer groups across academic and professional disciplines. In the context of professional development, this community aims to be the hot spot for all who identify as Middle Eastern and North African. I highly encourage those who do, to consistently utilize the resources the center plans to integrate overtime.
By Paige Mitchell
Paige Mitchell DEI Career Ambassador