Leadership Institute grad triumphs in UConn SGA elections

Mohammed Ruwaid, a graduate of the Leadership Institute’s Campus Election Workshop, recently secured a presidential victory in the University of Connecticut's Stamford’s SGA elections.

Campus Reform sat down with Ruwaid for an interview.

Mohammed Ruwaid, a graduate of the Leadership Institute’s Youth Leadership School (YLS) hosted in Dallas, Texas, in February, recently secured a presidential victory in the University of Connecticut’s Stamford’s Student Government Association (SGA) elections.

UConn is a multi-campus university with one based in Stamford.

Campus Reform, a project of the Leadership Institute (LI), sat down with Ruwaid for an interview to discuss his background, how it influences his values, how his experience at YLS shaped his platform and winning strategy, and how he plans to implement these lessons during his tenure as SGA President.

Ruwaid is also a graduate of LI’s Campus Election Workshop, which helps students develop strategies to secure victories in SGA races. He immigrated to the United States from India with his family in 2012. 

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“A lot of the cultural norms and the moral values transitioned over … Things like family first, pulling yourself ahead, working hard — I think those have definitely stuck with me,” Ruwaid told Campus Reform. 

”It’s relevant in this day and age when everyone [demands] stuff without working towards it,” he continued.

Discussing his experience at YLS, Ruwaid mentioned he attended because his running mate suggested the program would benefit their campaign performance.

The two most influential lessons from YLS that Ruwaid implemented were learning how to table and the importance of student advocacy. Throughout his campaign, Ruwaid ensured that his tabling sessions would be engaging and active, and prioritized incorporating as many students as possible into campaign leadership.

Ruwaid’s campaign focused on two main pillars: increasing student involvement with SGA and connecting UConn’s six campuses through a “One UConn Policy.”

”I had some sense of purpose where I wanted to see change, and I wanted to work towards that change,” said Ruwaid. Before the campaign began, Ruwaid reached out to various people, expressing interest in involving them and increasing student engagement with SGA.

Campus Reform discussed UConn’s Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) ratings with Ruwaid. UConn currently ranks 105 out of 203 schools in terms of the degree to which its policies are supportive of free speech, and was awarded a “yellow light” rating. According to FIRE, a yellow light rating signifies that the university “has at least one ... policy that restricts a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of vague wording, can too easily be used to restrict protected expression.”

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Ruwaid believes that SGA can help remedy this problem.

“It’s a Constitutional right. If you have something to say, you should definitely go out and say it as long as it’s morally okay,” Ruwaid said. “The issue is, in this day and age when people are leaning a little to the left and sometimes even to the extreme left, they do not necessarily accept anything even if it’s morally right, unless it caters to their ideologies.”

He continued, “The College Republicans, whenever they try to take an initiative, there is, I’d say, a little bit of backlash, but not to an extent where it’s like ‘Hey you guys shouldn’t even be here.’”

Ruwaid credits YLS with bringing attention to the growing movement towards censorship, while teaching him how to deal with that through crisis management skills. While he did not face any such attempts at censorship personally, Ruwaid believes navigating such situations is a key skill, because if he were to do this again “in a broader and public scope, [he] would face that issue.”

Ruwaid hopes to work in management consultancy in the future, but expressed that his experience at YLS broadened his horizons to potentially work in the political consultancy field one day, as well.