EP62 Introducing Amy Diawara, GPH's Student Governing Council Graduate President

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I AM GPH EP62 Introducing Amy Diawara, GPH's Student Governing Council Graduate President

EP62 Introducing Amy Diawara, GPH's Student Governing Council Graduate President

Alexandra Arriaga: Hello everyone, and welcome back to I AM GPH, or if you're a new incoming student, welcome to NYU. My name is Alex Arriaga, and today we will talk to the graduate president of the Student Governing Council, Amy Diawara. The Student Governing Council or SGC, is the umbrella student organization for all student groups at the College of Global Public Health. The SGC is a group of GPH students, undergraduate, MA, MPH, and PhD elected to serve on behalf of the general GPH student body. The SGC works to foster a sense of community, promote leadership, professional development opportunities, and oversee the creation of new GPH student groups. The president, Amy, is a current MPH student in the Global Health Concentration, and she hopes to communicate and negotiate with faculty and staff to advocate for and represent students voices. She would also like to implement effective, positive changes within the College of Global Public Health and campus wide at NYU. If you would like to learn more about your representative and how you can make your voice be heard, please stay tuned. I'm here with Amy who's the Graduate President of the Global Public Health Student Governing Council.

Amy Diawara: Yes.

Alexandra Arriaga: Could you please tell us about your background?

Amy Diawara: Hi, my name's Amy and I am now a second year global health student at GPH. I'm originally from Houston, Texas. I went to Texas A&M University and I graduated with a BS in Public Health Studies, and literally from that journey, that inspired me to want to pursue another degree and get my MPH in Global Health.My interests include really like HIV and AIDS research, as well as behavioral research because, well, I'm African, I'm half Malian and half Ivorian and just seeing a lot of issues in sub Saharan Africa, they really do STEM from behaviors. So it's something that I really want to dive into in the future.

Alexandra Arriaga: That's super interesting. So where in Africa is that?

Amy Diawara: It's in West Africa. Mali is one of those countries that... The Sahara ends in Mali, and then, the southern part of it is considered Sub-Saharan Africa. So there's really a debate on whether Mali is Sub-Saharan or not. So that's where my dad's from, and my mom's from the Ivory Coast, so it's right next door to Ghana.

Alexandra Arriaga: And have you visited?

Amy Diawara: I visited, yes.

Alexandra Arriaga: Oh wow.

Amy Diawara: They're both so beautiful. But it's two different climates, the Ivory Coast it's more tropical, and Mali is more of a desert, dry heat-

Alexandra Arriaga: Let me guess. You prefer the tropical?

Amy Diawara: ... Of course.

Alexandra Arriaga: That figures.

Amy Diawara: Yes.

Alexandra Arriaga: And so for someone that was in Texas, how did you end up at NYU?

Amy Diawara: Okay. So, funny thing, I was actually born in NYU. So when...why is my life a joke? I was born in NYU.

Alexandra Arriaga: She was, just to clarify, she was not born at the college.

Amy Diawara: I was not born at NYU.

Alexandra Arriaga: I'm going, Holy cow.

Amy Diawara: I was born in New York. The NY in NYU.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah.

Amy Diawara: And we moved down to Texas when I was two years old because my parents wanted a house and they wanted more space.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah, everything is bigger in Texas.

Amy Diawara: Being honest. More space. Cause coming to New York you just realize everything's so tiny and it's just like walking into people's kitchens and stuff like that. Cause we love to cook at my house and everyone's always in the kitchen and here you're like me and my roommate, that's it. We can barely fit. And it's just interesting.

Alexandra Arriaga: I love how New Yorkers just use this word for tiny apartments or just, "Oh it's cozy". I'm like, no it's not cozy.

Amy Diawara: That's not cozy.

Alexandra Arriaga: It's just, that's very tiny.

Amy Diawara: It's like right now just moving back, I can't imagine not having a backyard cause we barbecue every weekend and stuff and it's just like, I can't do that here.And finding Southern food in New York is so hard. Southern and Mexican food is so hard to find. Good Southern and Mexican food are hard to find in New York.

Alexandra Arriaga: We're going to have to talk about my Mexican place recommendations, after, because I love Mexican food.

Amy Diawara: I love Mexico. Alex. I'm literally going to cry ‘cause it's one of those things I've been, if you look at my Seamless, my Uber eats is really Mexican restaurants and Southern food and none of them I've went to twice.

Alexandra Arriaga: Oh my God. So you're just burning through it.

Amy Diawara: I'm just burning through it. Cause it's like I need my brisket, I need my tacos. But like no one's, they're not. It's not like what I'm used to.

Alexandra Arriaga: Hey, here's an idea Madame President. You can find a really good place of Southern food or Mexican food and then when you make a meeting or an event-

Amy Diawara: Yes

Alexandra Arriaga: -you can get catering from there for all of us to enjoy.

Amy Diawara: Oh I'm going to note that.

Alexandra Arriaga: I'm with a very powerful lady here so she can make that happen.

Amy Diawara: Oh, we'll try for sure.

Alexandra Arriaga: For sure. And so as I was saying, you are indeed the president of the GPH Student Governing Council.

Amy Diawara: So, okay.

Alexandra Arriaga: What inspired you to run for president?

Amy Diawara: For me personally, just having that African background and being a woman in 2019, it's just like looking at all the girls that can't do it because they don't have the opportunity to go to school or they're forced to work or get married early or they just can't afford it. And it's just one of those things, I feel blessed every day because not only did I have the opportunity to complete high school, I completed my college degree and now I'm on track to complete my master's. So just the imagery of that inspired me to want to run to see how can I make a contribution to my college where I go to and, you know, share my ideas and also share my perspective on things as well.

Alexandra Arriaga: No, that's fantastic. And I mean, you're being a great example for other girls.

Amy Diawara: So I'm like, if I could blush, I'd be blushing right now.

Alexandra Arriaga: She is blushing. Okay, so you're president, that's great, but what are some of your responsibilities?

Amy Diawara: The primary responsibility is just to be a voice of the graduate student body. So if anyone has issues, let me know. Or if you have ideas, just let me know. And also relaying those messages to the correct channels.

Alexandra Arriaga: Okay. Can you tell us more about the other students that work with you as part of the student governing council?

Amy Diawara: So the SGC is comprised of 13 amazing students and we just confirmed our undergraduate president this morning. And honestly I'm super duper excited. We're still figuring out the roles and that will all be available to you guys as soon as we find out. But I'm excited for the team because everyone's really open minded and everyone's, it's a good group. We all mesh together, we all talk about Zodiac sign. So it's really fun. So I'm excited. And my biggest thing about this whole role was I wanted to make it as fun as possible. We're obviously going to be working hard to make sure that we're giving everyone the best outcomes, but also let's have fun while doing it because we're going to be together for a year. And I'm literally one of those people, I'll pester you until you like me.

Alexandra Arriaga: Wait, so it, it seems like the zodiac sign thing is such a big thing in New York.

Amy Diawara: Oh yeah.

Alexandra Arriaga: What's your sign?

Amy Diawara: I'm a Leo.

Alexandra Arriaga: Oh, I don't know what that means, but is it a good thing?

Amy Diawara: To me it's a good thing.

Alexandra Arriaga: Okay.

Amy Diawara: We have haters, but it's fine. It's fine. We're out here thriving.

Alexandra Arriaga: And, I do have an odd question. I received this email saying that something had happened where they had to recount the votes for the undergraduate representative or something like that. What happened?

Amy Diawara: So it was a situation where, it was an honest...well the undergrads, they both went over the word count limit, so we had to redo the voting. So we redid the voting for the undergrads and that came out this morning.

Alexandra Arriaga: Okay. Okay. But it's been solved?

Amy Diawara: It's been solved. Yeah.

Alexandra Arriaga: Okay, perfect. I come from a country where elections are never transparent.

Amy Diawara: Oh same.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah. So you know just prying to see what was happening.

Amy Diawara: Yeah. Yeah. So it wasn't like too big of a deal. So it was just one of those things where we regrouped, they did what they had to do and voting was made out to the undergrad population again.

Alexandra Arriaga: Perfect. Problem solved. Fantastic. Okay, this is some more personal question.

Amy Diawara: Okay.

Alexandra Arriaga: What are you hoping to accomplish during your time as president and how is the entire team working to improve student's experience at GPH?

Amy Diawara: So as far as accomplishments, I really want to make GPH bigger, if that makes any sense. Like it's one of those things. So I used to work at CAS, a lot of students didn't know, well, I worked as an advisor, so a lot of the students when they're on their whole, "I'm trying to figure out what I want to do" journey, and I would mention public health, they didn't know what that was. They didn't even know where it was. So it's one of those, I want to bring more awareness to the college and I also want to make things more accessible for the students at GPH. Because we were talking about this the other day in our meeting, we want to host, like, more networking events and also networking with other schools because public health is very interdisciplinary or multifaceted so we can connect with people at Tandon, Stern, Wagner, Steinhardt. So we want to, like, build those relationships as well because a lot of people do say grad school's all about networking. So we want to open the doors for a lot of people to, you know, get into those channels.

Alexandra Arriaga: I second that. Yeah, I think that's very, very important. And how would you say that the entire team is working to improve the student's experience at GPH.

Amy Diawara: I feel like we're all very involved. So I hear a lot of whispers, they hear a lot of whispers. I'm an open book, I rarely get offended about anything. So I'm open to feedback. And even afterwards, I've gotten some emails on how to navigate certain things. So we're very mindful that students want change and we do want that change too, but taking those students their issues or comments into account. So that's something that we really want to work on and also build on that as far as programming and things we can offer to the college as well.

Alexandra Arriaga: So it seems like you want to provide value and you want to make sure that students are heard?

Amy Diawara: For sure.

Alexandra Arriaga: Perfect. What else can we ask for? Okay. And is there something about GPH's student governing council that you wish more students knew about?

Amy Diawara: I feel like a lot of the work that the SGC last year especially did went unnoticed because at my one-on-one meeting with Vaibhav who graduated yesterday, literally he just gave me all the ins and outs and I just sat there in awe. You guys did such amazing work and he just reiterated you can't make everyone happy. And that's honestly true. And just working towards, you know, making sure that most people's needs are met. But at the same time you have to be okay with those losses.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah.

Amy Diawara: So that's something that I wish more people knew and they are working really, really hard. And I feel like even before I even ran, it's just, I feel like sometimes students would forget that SUC are students too.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah. That's so true. These people you see working so hard to make events, to connect with you to, you know, send you emails. I remember reading Vibe’s, emails and thinking, Oh my God, I don't have time to read this right now because I'm so busy.

Amy Diawara: And then wrote it.

Alexandra Arriaga: And then it hit me. Not only is he probably as busy or even busier than I am, but he actually took the time to write this, to let me know that he is thinking about this thing that just happened in the world and that his thoughts go out to everyone. You know? And it's nice that you guys are taking the time to just be so mindful about everyone.

Amy Diawara: For sure and it's amazing work.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah. So thank you. And for those students, so you've mentioned that it's really important that students have a voice. Right?

Amy Diawara: For sure.

Alexandra Arriaga: And for those students that have ideas and comments, how can they effectively interact with you and provide feedback?

Amy Diawara: Honestly, if you see me, stop me. My email is AD4739@nyu.edu I'm literally open to anything and everything, so just reach out. Even if you see me with resting B face, I'm approachable, just know that. Just know that I probably haven't eaten. So it's fine.

Alexandra Arriaga: Just bring snacks for Amy if you see her.

Amy Diawara: Honestly...

Alexandra Arriaga: Just have snacks for her. Thank you very much. Mexican and Southern food encouraged.

Amy Diawara: Yes.

Alexandra Arriaga: But no, but besides your email, I guess, do you guys hold meetings that are open to students or?

Amy Diawara: Yeah, so we have monthly town halls so we're going to continue on with those next semester as well as just being involved in clubs. Like we are obviously, well not obviously, but we're members of clubs. So I mean if you see us tap us on the shoulder, I'm always in 726.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah.

Amy Diawara: Yeah.

Alexandra Arriaga: I feel like a lot of people don't know what you guys actually look like.

Amy Diawara: That's so true.

Alexandra Arriaga: That might be a thing. Maybe we need to send out an email with your picture?

Amy Diawara: Yeah, I think that's something we're going to do in the beginning. Because honestly if you voted you would've seen my picture. But that honestly wasn't the best picture of me cause I thought I looked washed out.

Alexandra Arriaga: Oh whatever.

Amy Diawara: This is so superficial. I literally asked Bob if I could resubmit another photo. I was like, "I look so washed out. Like that doesn't look like me. I look old."

Alexandra Arriaga: But you know, she didn't.

Amy Diawara: I look crusty. It's fine.

Alexandra Arriaga: Crusty? That's a, that's an interesting choice of words. I think you looked fine.

Amy Diawara: Okay.

Alexandra Arriaga: But, I do agree that it would be nice to have another picture sent out.

Amy Diawara: For sure, I think that's something we're going to do towards the beginning of the year because then the new students are coming in. So I guess it's going to be a re-introduction because they'll see us all. Well, a lot of people, a lot of the council are new students so they know who they are. So we'll put out new pictures.

Alexandra Arriaga: And they'll see you during orientation.

Amy Diawara: For sure.

Alexandra Arriaga: You'll be there right? So.

Amy Diawara: Yeah, yes.

Alexandra Arriaga: They'll get to see you.

Amy Diawara: Yes.

Alexandra Arriaga: Good. And what advice would you give to those students who are listening and they're like, "Oh my God, I would love to actually be in a leadership position just like Amy". What would you tell them? What advice would you give them about being a leadership role?

Amy Diawara: Do it. Just do it. Like Nike. I mean, why not? I'm one of those people, I hate to live in regret. So if I didn't run, I'd never know.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah.

Amy Diawara: So I'd rather do it. If I lose, I lose. I've lost plenty of things. So it's just like, when you lose, you have to learn how to cope with that. And people always tell me when one door closes, another door opens. So if this didn't work out, something else would come towards me. And I don't know. You always have to put your best foot forward and you just never know the support you have until you voice what you're wanting to do.

Alexandra Arriaga: That's so true. And so for you as a second year, when you think in retrospect, what would you have told yourself as an incoming student, as a first year, and now as a second year?

Amy Diawara: What would I have told myself a year ago?

Alexandra Arriaga: Take your time.

Amy Diawara: Interesting. This wasn't on the questions. Alex just came out with the heat. Okay. So I would definitely tell myself that you're going to figure it out. That's number one because that was literally my one part of my coming to NYU story or going to grad school story because I generally didn't know what I wanted to do and I was very worried about that. So you're going to figure out what you want to do and you're going to be with a bunch of passionate, equally minded people. Because being from the South, it was just a very singular way of living sometimes. And I want to be a person that goes abroad and does these group projects and helps these populations and I wasn't seeing that and I kind of thought New York would be the same thing or have pockets of people that want that same thing. So I was worried about that as well. Food, I'm sorry. You're not going to find good Southern or Mexican food, but it'll be, it'll be okay. It'll be okay. Yeah, that's what I would tell myself.

Alexandra Arriaga: That's good. I think that the part of, "you'll figure it out" is so important.

Amy Diawara: For sure.

Alexandra Arriaga: If there's any incoming students or new students that are listening to this. I know at the beginning it's so overwhelming. It's your orientation week and you already have assignments online and you know because your classmate told you and you haven't even signed in on the portal and that's okay and it's okay.

Amy Diawara: And I met Alex at orientation actually.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yes.

Amy Diawara: We sat at the same table.

Alexandra Arriaga: I remember.

Amy Diawara: It's just one of those things. I feel also with New York it forces you to be yourself.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yes.

Amy Diawara: And I feel like a big part of graduate school besides the assignments and everything is just one, figuring out yourself and two, figuring out your niche.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yes.

Amy Diawara: So not saying don't, definitely do your assignments. I'm not advocating for you not to do your school work, but just try to find yourself and it's going to be okay. I came from undergraduate so I can't speak for everyone, especially the people that have worked and came back. But it's just the same, doing your assignments, turning them in, but go live your life. Go explore a bit. Try to find those things that make you happy outside of school.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah, and I mean we're in such a great place. This is New York City. If there's ever a place where you'll find the most specific, you know, group of people that enjoy the exact same thing that you like, it's going to be here.

Amy Diawara: That's true.

Alexandra Arriaga: I mean everyone finds their own little niche in New York.

Amy Diawara: I know. And it's weird, I always have those moments like "I live in New York".

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah.

Amy Diawara: It's so weird. Because you always hear those things like, Oh it's like this. The people are, first of all the people here aren't rude.

Alexandra Arriaga: They are not.

Amy Diawara: I feel like that's the biggest misconception about New York. The people here are not rude. Everyone's been nice. You always have those one or two people that are, "ugh", but overall it's great. But it's an interesting environment. You see, you're exposed to a lot, I would say in New York, especially with the LGBTQ community because on campus we had an LGBTQ community, well an undergrad on campus. We had an LGBTQ community and they were very vocal, but it was just that support system or those allies weren't there. Like the people that they would want to be allies weren't open in arms cause like Texas is uber conservative and my university was, we were conservative as well. So coming here and just seeing the support that NYU gives to that community, it's amazing. Yeah.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah. And so many of our students that are part of that community just have such great representation here.

Amy Diawara: They're amazing. Yeah.

Alexandra Arriaga: So you're in the right place.

Amy Diawara: Wow. God makes no mistakes.

Alexandra Arriaga: Exactly. And then just, you know, on a final note, what motivates you to keep working even when you're faced with difficulties?

Amy Diawara: Kind of reeling back into that first question about the representation, because that's really huge for me. Just taking it back like a year ago, I was one of two black people that graduated in my college.

Alexandra Arriaga: What?

Amy Diawara: Yeah.

Alexandra Arriaga: Really?

Amy Diawara: Oh, there's only two of us. And it's just like coming here, seeing more students of color, seeing people that are interested in what I have to say and how I can help them. I'm a documentary junkie, I've probably watched like every Vice or BBC documentary out there by now. But it's just like sending those to people that actually care rather than they're just like, okay, I'm going to watch this later. And you never having those conversations and I feel like people are just very open and that really motivates me to keep on going, as well as just my peers. Everyone's just doing amazing things.

Alexandra Arriaga: Yeah.

Amy Diawara: So that's what motivates me to want to keep on going. And faculty as well, they're doing amazing things, they're providing amazing opportunities for students. And this is only a two year program, so I'm trying to get the most out of it just like everyone else. So it's just...

Alexandra Arriaga: I think you're on a good track for that.

Amy Diawara: Am I? Wow. You're just boosting me. My self esteem is not there yet for that.

Alexandra Arriaga: Oh, I'm here for that.

Amy Diawara: Oh oh Alex. I can always rely. So I don't know, it's just a lot of different things that motivates me. My background, my parents, they're both immigrants and it's just going back and seeing other girls not have the same opportunities as I do and just the freedom to do what I do and just having the parents I do that encourage me to do what I want as far as career wise. So it's one of those things where it's a hodgepodge of things that motivate me to continue on.

Alexandra Arriaga: That's great. I'm so glad to know that your heart is in the right place and I'm so glad that you're here. Like you said, you are representing and you are already doing amazing work and I cannot wait to see what you do as president.

Amy Diawara: Okay. Same.

Alexandra Arriaga: All right, well thank you so much Amy. And you already know if you want to contact Amy, you can go to either the town hall meetings.

Amy Diawara: NYU post emails. You all should read those too. They're very informative.

Alexandra Arriaga: You know those emails that you get and they say NYU weekly,

Amy Diawara: Every Friday,

Alexandra Arriaga: Every Friday, and sometimes you just don't read them.

Amy Diawara: Yep.

Alexandra Arriaga: Well, you should read them.

Amy Diawara: You should read them.

Alexandra Arriaga: That's where you get more information. Any funny thing when you see Amy just approach with a taco or something.

Amy Diawara: A good taco.

Alexandra Arriaga: A good taco, and she'll be more than happy to help out.

Amy Diawara: Oh gosh.

Alexandra Arriaga: All right. Well, thank you so much, Amy.

Amy Diawara: Thank you for having me.