Leila Masinovic: Making history at UNI

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  • Leila Masinovich, was elected as NISG’s first Muslim woman president in UNI’s history. Masinovic ran with Micaiah Krutsinger as Vice President.

  • Masinovic grew up in Waterloo, and was raised by her mother who worked two full time jobs to support Leila and her younger brother.

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Karla DeBruin, Managing Editor

Waterloo native and newly elected Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) President Leila Masinovac (pronounced Mach-ino-vitch) is making history at UNI as the first female-Muslim NISG president. Currently serving as the Director of Diversity for NISG, Masinovic and her running mate Micaiah Krutsinger will officially take office as president and vice president in April. 

Growing up in Waterloo, Masinovic and her younger brother were raised by their mom. Her parents immigrated from Bosnia in the 1990s with nothing, and her mom worked two full-time jobs to ensure Leila and her brother had everything they needed. 

As a first generation student, Masinovic started out as a Nursing major at UNI, and eventually changed to a biology major with a minor in criminology and legal studies. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, and to recognize the extraordinary women who have made and are making UNI, the Northern Iowan sat down with Masinovic and discussed her time in NISG, the importance of women’s history month and women in leadership. 

Question: What does it mean to you to be the first female-Muslim student body president at UNI? 

“That’s a big question. Where do I start? It’s an honor. I get to tell women that look like me, hey, you can do this too. I get to show campus that somebody who looks a little different than the norm has the same ideas and wishes and hopes for this campus. To make it more of a norm to see different people in positions like these. And in positions that can greatly affect and help the campus and students and staff and everyone involved. It’s a huge honor.” 

Question: What is the importance of women in leadership to you?

“I could talk all day. It’s everything. We need these voices. Not just in leadership positions, but in other positions as well. The more voices you have at the table the better equipped you’ll be to handle any situation that comes your way.”

Masinovic continued, “Rather than if there’s always a white man in power. How are you going to be equipped to handle somebody that has a different perspective or a different background that has no idea what you believe or how you see the world? Women, as well as men, bring a lot of different perspectives as well.”

Question: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

“Should be everyday, shouldn’t be just a month. Everyone in the world should be celebrated and appreciated for everything that they do and everything they bring to the table. As much as I love having a month for women, it should be a norm, it should be something that’s celebrated even when the month is gone. Having that respect and love for one another and understanding. Is something that helps us grow and helps us become better.”

Question: Discuss your time in NISG. How long have you been involved in NISG?

“Actually believe it or not, not that long. Before I got the position I am currently in, the Director of Diversity, I was a senator at large for like 2 months. That was after I gave a speech to the faculty senate. The president at the time recommended that I join NISG, and become a senator. It was March of 2020, so I was senator for maybe like 3 or 4 meetings. But it was good to kind of understand how the senate works and work as a senator for a little bit… The previous director of diversity recommended I apply for this position. And I did and I’m here. I didn’t think I would get it, but now I’m here.”

Question: What initiatives have you worked on?

“I’ve been working with Mike Bobeldyk (director of student involvement and event services), to try and figure out what to do with what used to be called the Meditation Room…they changed it to Mindfulness Space to be more inclusive. I worked with the Center for Multicultural Education to get religious items and texts from various different religions and cultures and try to make sure that while we have this space where you can use it. To do whatever you want, you can relax, but you also have access to these important things.” 

Question: What are you planning on doing for UNI students as NISG President? 

Representation: “There are different areas and capacities. For sure representation at the Capitol is a big thing. Considering one, we get our funding from them and two, we want to keep those ties really good. Even after I’m gone, I want to make sure that UNI has a good standing with them. There are a bunch of things on our platform.”

Environmental consciousness: “One of the things we wanted to do was have a clean campus initiative. So one day instead of having a class the whole campus just gets up and starts cleaning. I think it would be really nice to have our students and faculty. So our students can work together with their professors.”

Accessibility to students: “Open office hours. The office is always open to anyone. I want to make it so that students know that every month, on a certain day, at a certain time. They should know that they can come with anything they want with questions, concerns, and they need a friend. That’s what we want to do.”

Question: Is there anything you want UNI students to know?

“Empower each other. Entrust each other and respect one another. Keep things to make sure you have a good place to be. A good working environment, a good campus.Make sure that you’re involved and come talk to me.”