“I see it as an environment for student change:” UVM’s new SGA president talks about her role and goals for the year

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Courtesy Lana Al-Namee

After a rollercoaster of an SGA presidential election this past March, Iraqi-American and first generation college student Lana Al-Namee has started her tenure as president of the organization. 

As Al-Namee has taken her seat at the head of SGA, she entered into a school year marked by a global pandemic and historic racial justice protests on and off campus. 

But to Al-Namee, her new position is not political. 

“I don’t see this as a political position,” Al-Namee said of her role as SGA President. “I see it as an environment for student change.” 

One of five girls, Al-Namee was born in Baghdad, Iraq. Her family came to the United States in 2008, where she enrolled in the 3rd grade. 

It is an identity that has not been without conflict, she said.  

“I’m seen as and treated most of the time as a white person but as soon as people know where I’m from, the conversation changes instantly,” Al-Namee said. 

Her experience as an Iraqi-American has pushed her to prioritize representation at UVM. 

“We need to put an end to having the same identities in the Senate,” she said. “If we are going to claim we represent the student body, we may as well have representation in the Senate.” 

Although Al-Namee was not originally named the winner of the election in March., When Senior Ben Bieri won and later stepped down, she was quickly sworn in. 

A goal for the pescatarian and avid runner is to balance introducing institutional change while meeting the day-to-day needs of students, especially students who are typically marginalized, she said. 

“How do you support students of color at a predominantly-white university in the long-run?” Al-Namee said. 

In addition to fostering inclusion on campus, Al-Namee wants to strengthen support for sexual assault victims. 

She said this decision comes on the heels of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s August 15th decision to allow those accused of harassment or assault to cross-examine their accusers. 

“Those victims need to be listened to and supported,” she said. 

Outside of the classroom, the Business Administration major is an avid cook and yogi. 

“I’ve been known to make anything into a meal,” she said. “I’ll combine anything and I use what I’ve got to make it delicious.”  

While the office in the Davis Center that usually houses SGA meetings is closed for renovations for the time being, there will still be in-person SGA meetings that are open to both returning and potential members of SGA, the first of which took place Tuesday at 7 p.m.