Graduate Student Council works for the benefit of all

KAUST's Graduate Student Council (GSC) has been in existence since 2009, when it was established by a few outgoing founding class students who wanted to give a voice to the new students of the fledgling institution. The Student Council works closely with, and is advised by, Graduate Affairs.

"In September 2009 it became clear we needed some kind of a structure for the students," says Damian San Roman, current GSC President, KAUST Ph.D. student, and a founding class student who has been involved with the council since its inception. "We gathered in one of the lecture halls and began to establish the council's constitution and bylaws. Those were our first steps."

Justine Mink, a founding class student who graduated in December 2013 with her Ph.D. and served as Vice President of the council during her studies explains: "We initially had a team of 22 people on the council. We chose 11 from the original 11 graduate program tracks, and 11 more were elected by popular vote."

"We wanted to represent all the students," says San Roman. "Something nice about the council is that even today we still have people from every possible background. We know KAUST is made of up of a varied community, and we want to hear all those voices."

He notes that the council has evolved in different ways since it began in 2009, but still retains the original four committee positions of Academic and Research, linking KAUST students, faculty, and research scientists; Graduate Life, overseeing all aspects of non-academic student life; International Business Relations, networking students with industry for potential job opportunities and research collaborations; and University Relations, linking the University's administration to the students. Each committee is chaired by a student who is assisted by four additional student representatives.

In addition to the committee chairs and representatives, the GSC President and Vice President oversee two officers, one representing the Saudi Initiatives organization, and a public relations officer, who is responsible for liaising with KAUST's Communications Department and coordinating coverage relating to the council's activities.

"We depend heavily on the personalities and energies of our members to get new activities started and to make progress in our student community," San Roman says. "I think new students often come here and see things as established, but the University is an ever-changing place, and we try to evolve with it. We believe everyone has the chance to make positive changes, and we look for commitment from the entire community to make those changes."

"For me, it was such a unique experience to be part of the initial establishment of the council," says Mink, who also served as Vice President of her undergraduate university Johns Hopkins' student council. "I really enjoyed shaping and seeing the GSC come to life – it is still one of the best memories I have of my time as a KAUST student. The GSC has a key role in shaping KAUST's culture, and I believe we've played an important part in that so far."​

The 2014 – 2015 GSC

President: Damian San Roman

Damian San Roman
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Founding class student, arrived in September 2009
Master's degree in Electrical Engineering (Photonics) received 2010
Current Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering (Photonics)

About the council: "One of our biggest goals with the council is creating a sense of community for the students. This year we are focusing on improving communication with the students and connecting them with the entire community."

On his KAUST experience: "At the end of the day here, you come away with a wonderfully culturally mixed experience – we mix words from different languages, we mix different types of food, we embroider all our cultures together. So while we're here to do science, we're also here to learn about ourselves and others and nurture ourselves to become better human beings."

Vice-President: Evgeniya Predybaylo

Evgeniya Predybaylo
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Arrived at KAUST in September 2011
Master's degree in Earth Science and Engineering received 2012
Current Ph.D. student in Earth Science and Engineering

About the council: "The GSC's events and actions impact every aspect of the students' lives, from academic to entertainment to what food they eat on campus. We try to think about any positive changes that could be made, and we hope the students feel and appreciate these changes."

On her KAUST experience: "KAUST is a unique and amazing adventure on the shores of the Red Sea. I enjoy every day here, especially because KAUST provides the opportunity to live with people from more than 80 countries in one community. It's rare to find this anywhere else!"

Academic & Research (AR) Committee Chair: Mitchell Morton

Mitchell Morton
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Arrived at KAUST in September 2013
Current master's degree student in Bioscience

About the council: "The GSC is 'the whole package:' it provides students with events and activities, strives to ameliorate the academic and research environment, links students with international employers, and ensures the campus amenities meet their needs. I am glad I have been able to help in re-writing some of the council's founding tenets."

On his KAUST experience: "Interesting, challenging, and enlightening – so far!"

AR Student Representatives: Adrian Cavazos, Ahmed Aldossary, Dounya Barrit, Muhammad Waqas.

Graduate Life (GL) Committee Chair: Yasmeen Najm

Yasmeen Najm
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Arrived at KAUST in September 2012

Current Ph.D. student in Environmental Science and Engineering

About the council: "As a council, it is essential we form an intimate link with the entire student body, because at the end of the day we are their representatives, and addressing their needs is our main objective. We know that academic life is a top priority for students, but we strive to enhance student life by offering a range of activities that are both culturally interesting and entertaining."

On her KAUST experience: "KAUST is an out-of-this-world experience that has its own unique challenges and amazing returns for hard work. What also makes it special is the diverse community: here you are not solely studying for a degree, but you also have the opportunity to learn about hundreds of different cultures and traditions."

GL Student Representatives: Alex Kattan, Islam Almasri, Maha Almoudi, Sabrina Vettori.

International Business Relations (IBR) Committee Chair: Michael Margineanu

Michael Margineanu
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Arrived at KAUST in September 2013

Current master's degree student in Bioscience

About the council: "The council connects students to staff, faculty and leadership, and also catalyzes interactions amongst students themselves, aiming to make their stay at KAUST enjoyable and enriching. This year we have built good relationships with the different divisions within KAUST and we put every effort into offering our graduates great employment opportunities."

On his KAUST experience: "I feel KAUST is an immersion into an ocean of knowledge and opportunity. In my time here, I have learned more than I ever could imagine on a personal level, and I have also learned about the culture and history of Saudi Arabia. Here we are surrounded by very talented people in a great environment."

IBR Student Representatives: Jorge Rosas, Kaamil-ur-rahman Mohamed-shibly, Martin Ibarra, and Nadia Kuraytem.

University Relations (UR) Committee Chair: Mustafa Mousa

Mustafa Mousa
Photo courtesy of Mustafa Mousa

Arrived at KAUST in September 2010

Current Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering

About the council: "We try to inspire students to do their best and also realize how important their non-academic life on campus is to their academic journey. My time on the council has allowed me to realize the value we can add to students' lives, and how we can learn things from everyone we deal with."

On his KAUST experience: "I've lived in Saudi Arabia my entire life, and KAUST is the most rewarding experience I have had here so far. The potential for success exists in a great way everywhere in KAUST specifically and in Saudi Arabia in general."

UR Student Representatives: Huda Ibeid, Mariam Awlia, Nitinkumar Batra, and Sheikha Alardi.

Saudi Initiatives (SI) Officer: Nadia Al-tamimi

Nadia Al-tamimi
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Arrived at KAUST in September 2013

Current master's degree student in Bioscience

About the council: "Being able to assist others by being on the council is very rewarding and is a way for me to give back to KAUST, a university that has given me so much. In my role I interact with Saudi Initiatives, which carries out many ongoing projects, such as volunteering with schoolchildren in Thuwal and 'green' projects to make the campus more eco-friendly. I want to raise awareness of what SI is achieving and increase the number of student volunteers. I also want to help recruit more top Saudi students to come pursue their studies at KAUST."

On her KAUST experience: "I am Saudi and I feel especially proud that such an establishment that gives so many wonderful opportunities now exists in my own country. I study with amazing people from many different nationalities, and this has really broadened my mind and opened my eyes to different views and cultures."

Public Relations Officer: Maria Mosqueira

Maria Mosqueira
Photo by Tunde Gaspar

Arrived at KAUST in September 2013

Current master's degree student in Environmental Science and Engineering

About the council: "I wanted to give something back to the students. I had some experience with similar organizations in the past, and I knew how gratifying getting involved in these kinds of activities can be. I hope that the council and its activities can have a deeper impact on the student community – together we make decisions and work for the benefit of all."

On her KAUST experience: "Living in Saudi Arabia has been a fascinating experience from the start. This is my first time living abroad apart from family and friends, but here, immersed in a new culture, I have made many cherished friendships and had a beautiful time."

By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News