MSA celebrates one year of “community, peace and fearlessness”


Photo courtesy of Kayla Mutchler

Members of MSA, faculty and staff during the one-year celebration, West Haven, March 22, 2022.

Kayla Mutchler, Editor-In-Chief

In just one year, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) has made its presence known at the University of New Haven since its virtual beginning on March 15, 2021. From World Hijab Day celebrations to interfaith panels, fashion shows and more, the organization has continued to grow since its founding.

Last Tuesday, MSA celebrated their one-year anniversary in the Alumni Lounge on campus. Students, faculty and staff came out to join the festivities. As guests sat at their tables, a slideshow played on a projector, highlighting some of the key memories from the past year.

Adrielys Gomez, senior behavioral economics major, president and founder of MSA, opened the event. “There is a very big importance of community, and with the support of you all, we have been able to have a successful first year,” she said.

Gomez reminisced on their first event, World Hijab Day, which was held on Zoom, celebrating women around the world who choose to wear hijabs. She also explained how the organization has grown from just an executive board of two students to six executive board (e-board) members. Gomez continued by recognizing all of MSA’s accomplishments from the last year, including their advocacy regarding the importance of interfaith on campus.

Students watch Adrielys Gomez as she gives her opening speech, West Haven, March 22, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Kayla Mutchler.)

Following the anniversary, Gomez and the rest of the MSA executive board reflected on the event, their organization’s past, and looked forward to the future of MSA.

The MSA e-board is made up of Gomez, Vice President and junior criminal justice major Shahd Omar, Executive Assistant and graduate chemistry student Abdur Rahman, Treasurer and sophomore marketing major Youssef Ossama, Director of Communications and Event Coordinator and sophomore mechanical engineering major Laila Soliman, and Director of Public Relations and first-year dental hygiene major Nurcan Bozan.

Together, the e-board said that this past year has been a time of “community, peace and fearlessness.”

About a year before MSA’s creation, Gomez asked then-Assistant Director of the Myatt Center Zanaiya Leon if an MSA already existed on our campus, and, at the time, it didn’t. Gomez wanted such an organization because she said she is sometimes the only woman of color in a classroom, as well as the only Muslim student. She wanted to create her “own little community.”

Gomez met Omar through an Arabic professor, who told students about the new club. Omar emailed Gomez and became vice president, and Ossama joined shortly thereafter. Little by little, more members joined, and the club eventually grew into what it is today.

Members of the university community support MSA, though they may not be affiliated with Islam, according to Gomez. She said that at each event, they have about the same amount of Muslim attendees as students and faculty from other religions.

Gomez’s goals for MSA’s future include other members continuing to lead the organization after she graduates, as she said that some multicultural organizations fade away when the founding leadership moves on. She also wants to continue their flagship events and expand them, such as with interfaith panels and open forums.

Although there were many to choose from, the e-board unanimously said that the We Are Culture Fashion Show was their favorite event. At this fall event, students of various religions and cultures showcased outfits that represented their respective communities.

The event was so popular among the university community that the e-board had to call maintenance multiple times to bring more chairs for incoming guests.

According to MSA, there’s much more left in store to look forward to this year. Currently, Ossama is working on getting Halal food for students and providing them with meals to break their fasts.

Gomez said the club wants to make “UNH a place that’s welcoming to [Muslim students], because… when we first created MSA, we didn’t have any resources.”

Omar said that many students studying abroad who are new to campus use MSA as a resource. She said some reach out to ask about housing opportunities, among other questions.

Soliman said they hope that MSA continues to educate people about topics surrounding and outside of religion. “We would like to stay true to our values and make sure that there is a safe space for muslims on campus,” they said.

Soliman is from Egypt, and they said that they were terrified when they first came to campus. They said that to them, “MSA is everything.”

“I feel supported; I feel welcomed; I feel safe,” they said. “Being gifted that… I want to give back to the community.”

“If you’ve ever been to one of our meetings,” Omar said, “the energy is just so calm and everyone there feels welcome.”

One thing that members want students to know is that MSA is open to all students of all religions. Ossama said that the group is open-minded and attempts to give people constructive criticism during their discussions.

Though MSA is still a younger organization compared to some other RSOs, members hope that it will continue to grow. Omar said, “It’s like our little flower that we’re watering and we just want it to keep growing and growing––more so a tree, so it can stay alive forever.”

MSA meets every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Myatt Center. For more information on MSA, you can follow their Instagram, @unh_msa. E-board applications are also available now through Charger Connection.