A Cauldron Spotlight – CSU SGA President Nina Faisal

Photo Credit: Jaden Stambolia

Before she ran for President of the Cleveland State Student Government Association or started applying to graduate schools to pursue her dream of becoming a speech pathologist, Nina Faisal didn’t believe she would ever be accepted into the United States.

As a Palestinian refugee, her passport doesn’t carry much value, but Faisal’s dreams do, and those pushed her to the opportunities she has now and the ones she is still pursuing. 

“I didn’t have a lot of faith as a Palestinian refugee because the passport doesn’t have much value,” Faisal said. “I got accepted, and I got the visa, and I feel like that changed my whole perspective on life, became more hopeful, and kind of gave me a push to pursue opportunities and always have that.”

Faisal knew that at the age of 15, she wanted to pursue a degree in speech pathology and become a certified speech-language pathologist. She realized she wanted to help people while back home in Lebanon, a family friend was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and he lacked communication skills.

In 2015, Lebanon only had two speech pathologists for the whole country, and not a lot of resources were available for those needing help. Since it was an under-resourced area of study, many people believed in the stigma that people who have difficulty communicating would eventually develop communication skills without any professional help.

“People are not educated enough about it back home. Now it’s better. But even the whole profession as a whole is not provided in universities,” Faisal said. “I did some research and started doing some minor communication-building skills with him, getting picture cards and stuff like that. And I fell in love with it and wanted to become a speech pathologist to work with kids who are diagnosed with autism and Down’s syndrome.”

In 2019, Faisal would be in the United States, planning to study at Cleveland State, majoring in communication sciences and disorders as well as linguistics with a minor in anthropology.

Time in Student Government

At Cleveland State, Faisal also pursued positions within student government. First being the treasurer in 2021, then, in fall of 2022, she became the director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion before deciding to run for president during the special election. 

Faisal believed that she would be a great person representing CSU students and sharing their concerns with the faculty and administration, which is why she decided to run as president.

“I just felt like student government was going through a transition phase, and a lot of complications were happening. And I felt like I care for students, and I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns around me, and I wanted to share those concerns with other departments,” Faisal told The Cauldron. “I’ve been working in the Department of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I’ve already established these connections, and I felt confident representing students and sharing their concerns.”

Faisal gave credit to her friends that were willing to support her journey, which ended with her winning the election and becoming president. 

“I also had a wonderful team of friends who were willing to support me in my journey, like Sebastian Canales, who is the vice president. We made this decision, let’s run for student government. We were already part of student government. We know how things are operated,” Faisal said. 

President Faisal is so popular at Cleveland State that she has a fan page on Instagram. With the bio reading, “CSU loves President Nina.”

While Faisal is a popular president, she told The Cauldron the biggest challenge is letting students know that they hear their concerns and being transparent with them.

“I feel like sometimes students think that we are not listening to their concerns. I do want to let them know that we are listening to their concerns,” Faisal said. “We are sharing things with our staff members and {administration} as well as the faculty senate to see how we can resolve issues.”

Faisal’s administration is looking to focus on inclusivity, safety, and transparency in that order. When it comes to inclusivity, Faisal wants commuter students to have CSU feel like a second home.

“A lot of students on campus don’t feel included, especially commuting students. They just come here, take their classes and leave,” Faisal told the Cauldron. We want to build this kind of inclusive environment at CSU where students feel like this is their second home, where they can interact with specific student organizations, clubs, sporting events, and departments and just feel like they’re comfortable at CSU.”

Safety has also become an issue at Cleveland State, especially with the Student Center courtyard, with speakers coming and making students feel unsafe.

“We need to build a stronger program at CSU with the police department and informational sessions to educate students about harassment and stuff like that,” Faisal told The Cauldron.

Faisal’s administration and student government are working on ways to keep students informed of their activities and to be able to get feedback from students as well.

“We’re working on having a CSU student government newsletter or websites where we share information with students about the things we’ve been working on and our committees who we’ve been in contact with,” Faisal said. “This gives a window for students to know about what’s happening. And if there’s something we’re missing, then they can share it with us.”

Coming back around

Faisal is trilingual, speaking Russian, Arabic, and English, and she also serves as the treasurer of CSU’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights student group. Faisal’s culture is a big part of her life, and she credits coming to the United States for finding her roots.

“Culture is a big part of my life. It’s part of my identity. I am strongly connected to my roots, especially my Palestinian roots,” Faisal told the Cauldron. “I wasn’t that strongly connected before, but ever since I moved to the United States, I value it, and it really impacts my life and how I communicate with people. It gives me a more eye-opening experience when I get to know people from different cultures and religions.”