This past spring, Amer Ahmed was appointed as Swarthmore’s Director of the Intercultural Center and Dean of the Sophomore Class. Ahmed succeeds Darryl Smaw, who stepped in as interim Director of the Intercultural Center following Alina Wong’s departure in the fall of 2013.
The son of Muslim immigrants from India, Ahmed was born and raised in Ohio. Ahmed received his undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology and black studies at Miami University in Ohio, studying abroad in both South Africa and Nepal during his time there. He later completed his masters in Cultural Anthropology and Black Studies as well.
After completing his masters, Ahmed ran multicultural centers at Loras College and Concordia College, both small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest. While working at these colleges, he sought to educate and engage the community on social justice issues through the use of hip-hop.
Ahmed spent the next seven years at the University of Michigan, where he helped the university adapt to changes brought on by then-new affirmative action legislation in the state. During his time at Michigan, Ahmed became a national speaker on issues including Islamophobia, diversity, intercultural communication, hip-hop activism, and social justice.
Ahmed described his mindset when it comes to his work as “unique,” saying, “I like intercultural communication models with social justice frames, so that grounds my approach in how I go about doing the work.”
After spending seven years at the University of Michigan, Ahmed decided it was time for a change. “[Coming to Swarthmore] became the right opportunity for me, so now I’m here,” he said.
One of Ahmed’s first tasks at Swarthmore was to oversee the selection of the new Program Administrator of the Intercultural Center. This new Program Administrator would replace Brianna Serrano, who left the college earlier this summer. Ahmed found it challenging to conduct a search process without having had much time to adjust to Swarthmore, and he described the process as having a “big learning curve.” However, he was pleased regarding the ultimate decision.
Ahmed selected Mohammed Lotif, formerly of Kalamazoo College, as the new Program Administrator. Ahmed was excited about the selection of Lotif. “I have complete confidence in his ability to connect with students, to work with students, support students,” Ahmed said. Lotif began working at the college last week, on Wednesday, September 3.
Ahmed anticipated working closely with student groups, specifically ENLACE, SAO, SQU, and SOLIS, a new group focused on low-income students. Ahmed emphasized the importance of building connections both within and among these groups. “We want to encourage safe spaces and community building processes internally, but we also don’t want people to isolate themselves,” Ahmed said. “We want people to find connections across identities.”
“We’re working with a number of different student organizations, we’re looking to build relationships with students that might view the IC as a resource. We want to see if there’s anything we can do to improve the center, in order to ensure that we’re delivering services that are what students want and need to be successful here at Swarthmore.”
Ahmed feels confident in his ability to achieve these goals. “That’s very comfortable territory for me,” he said. “It’s work that I’ve done my entire professional career.” He looks forward to moving forward using a student-driven process.
Ahmed was particularly interested in building leadership skills to help enhance intercultural communication, citing it as one of his areas of expertise. “I can help students learn about how to effectively navigate the complexity of similarities and differences in a way that can help prepare them to step [into] the world,” Ahmed said. He hopes that this increased communication will “instill a commitment to social justice” in students as they continue on in their lives.
Additionally, Ahmed is optimistic that this focus will help encourage an “action-oriented” mindset. “I don’t want to stay with only ideas,” Amer said. He wants to consider how “we implement efforts of change [and] go about creating change in effective ways so that we can create more inclusive spaces and more equity in the world.”
In Ahmed’s capacity as a dean of the sophomore class, Ahmed seeks to provide academic support through ensuring students have the assistance they need and connecting them with resources. He also intends to specifically address the issues and questions students often face their sophomore year as they consider studying abroad and declaring a major. He hopes to help them as they “transition into the next phase of the college experience.”
Ahmed looks forward to getting to know many people at Swarthmore. “I hope folks reach out to me, because sometimes you don’t know who you don’t know,” he said. “I’m very deeply invested in collaborating and doing dynamic things on campus. So I’m really excited about that possibility.”
Featured image courtesy of brohammas.wordpress.com.