Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Two Concordia College juniors made history this spring when they were elected to head its Student Government Association. They represent the first international students ever chosen by their peers to head the board of campus leaders.
Amina Fatkhulloeva and Eunice Kayitare Gikundivo are the new president and vice president of SGA on the 2,040-student campus. Now completing their third year in Moorhead, the two come from two of the smallest nations on the Asian and African continents. Amina is from Tajikistan, which lies to the northeast of Afghanistan, while Eunice’s home is in Rwanda in east-central Africa. They’re two of about 90 international students currently completing the semester.
The two were the first graduates of United World Colleges to arrive on campus in 2018. The global nonprofit, which describes itself as a“global movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future,” operates 18 rigorous high schools (comparable to U.S. secondary schools) on four continents. Alumni – like Amina and Eunice – go on to attend one of the 99 American colleges and universities that partner with UWC, including Concordia. Their education is funded in large part by the Davis Foundation, a scholarship-granting program established by philanthropist Shelby Davis, who also founded and funds UWC.
Amina attended UWC’s Red Cross-Nordic campus in Flekka, Norway, while Eunice received her International Baccalaureate Diploma at UWC-Maastricht in the Netherlands. Concordia’s size and liberal arts curriculum attracted both women. Amina explains, “I was looking for a small school that would be flexible enough to allow me to do whatever studies interest me.” During her two years studying in Norway, she says, she got close to the Norwegian language and culture – an affinity that drew her to Concordia, with its Norse roots. She is majoring in public accounting and finance, with an eye toward working with development programs around the world.
Eunice adds, “The college’s Christian character attracted me, along with the opportunity to major in neuroscience.” The field of study is a relatively new one; she will graduate next year as one of its first majors.
Outgoing and community-minded, the women have been involved in campus and community activities since their arrival. Eunice has been active in the International Student Organization as an event planner and officer, now its president. A musician and dancer, she has reached beyond the campus, performing Afro-contemporary dance to the music of Rwanda at TED-X and One Million Cups in Fargo.
Amina, who dreams of working for the Asian Development Bank or World Bank someday, has also reached beyond what she calls “the Concordia bubble” into the community. She has volunteered with a tax-preparation program, for example; participates in debate; and serves on President William Kraft’s Sustainability Council. She is also involved in one of the Davis Foundation’s Projects for Peace – in her case, a water project in her native Tajikistan.
Running for the top jobs in student government was something of a last-minute impulse.
“It was my idea,” she reports. “I went to Eunice right away. I know how passionate she is – what a great leader. We announced we would run just two days before the deadline.”
Their campaign was powered by frustration that students’ voices weren’t being heard in decisions affecting them: “I was so annoyed by how students’ voices have not been represented during the Covid pandemic – have not been heard at the administrative level,” she says. “It is nobody’s fault, but it does happen.
“Our goal is greater transparency. Nobody seems to know how so many decisions that impact us are being made. We want to bring students’ voices to the administration.” As part of that mission, they plan to make sure every part of the student body is being represented. “International students, for example,” she explains, “have different concerns in applying for jobs and internships.
“We want to talk about diversity and other topics that may make people uncomfortable but need to be heard to make us all stronger. Students on our campus tend to gather in their own groups. We need to make sure that every part of the student body is confident that their concerns are being heard.”
While the two SGA leaders were among the first to attend Concordia, they’re far from the last. Since the college became a full partner in the UWC program four years ago, a total of 19 have arrived, most last year as Covid travel restrictions permitted. Among their home nations: Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Afghanistan, Argentina, Honduras, Jordan and Sierra Leone.
UWC was established about 20 years ago by Davis, who made his fortune as a mutual fund manager, and educator Phil Geier. Its overarching goal is advancing international understanding through education, both for the young people who participate directly in its programs and those they come to know on the U.S. college campuses they attend.