This month, our focus is on Umaize Savani as he recaps his time at UC and his involvement, from Student Government’s VP to the creation of UC’s first inclusive prayer and meditation room, all in effort to create new paths for those who come after him.
That is the most recent estimate of male students of color on campus here at the University of Cincinnati. Kind of a low number, right? In fact, this editor had to use his AP Statistics knowledge from his senior year of high school to get this figure. The truth is that men of color do pursue higher education, but at disproportionately low numbers due to societal factors that are out of their control. However, with the over 45,000 Bearcats that live within the Queen City, only 1 in 8 of them are men of color. These students are always working to regain dominion over their futures and create an easier world for those like them. These students are members of the community that work past their coursework, past the classroom, and outside the campus to leave a positive impact on the city we call home. One of those great people is Umaize Savani.
Umaize Savani is one of the most actively involved students on campus. Being actively involved in almost 10 organizations ranging from being a ROAR tour guide, briefly joining the Finance Club, being a flexible yet constant fixture within Student Government, and even being the Muslim Student Association’s Vice President. Majoring in Finance and Marketing, Savani has astoundingly preserved a balance between his academics and his extracurriculars, even having free time for his hobbies.
Born and raised right outside of Cincinnati, Umaize has wanted to go to the University of Cincinnati since he was young. Savani noted that UC wasn’t a settling choice for him. “[UC] was the goal and I got to the goal.” Looking forward to a holistic college experience and a comfortable yet fun college town, it was no surprise that he made himself at home within his first semester. A born extrovert, he was eager to make friends and get involved.
After being the Student Outreach Director for the prior administration, he met then Senator-At-Large Sinna Habteselassie while running a Town Hall on campus. After a few months of talking about their issues with UC, the two decided to run for office. With Habteselassie being a 4th year and Savani being a 2nd year, the odd couple ran on a platform of making the campus more inclusive and accessible for students. This made them a winning pair, being elected in March 2018.
With Habteselassie being UC’s first black female president, she and Savani brought multiple long-lasting changes to the UC campus that have impacted all students. From adding much-needed shuttle stops to Kroger, Ikea, and Kenwood Mall, to Food Truck Fridays, to OneStop’s text alerts, to even the creation of a cheaper meal plan option called the Block 10 Plan, offered at the end of every semester.
Savani even took advantage of his platform to repair an issue that hit closer to home for him. As a man of Muslim faith, he has dedicated times throughout his day for prayer. During his first week on campus, he quickly realized that there was no devoted space on campus exclusively for prayer, specifically in Langsam Library. Keeping the idea in his head, he and Sinna decided to add it to their platform a year later. In collaboration with UC Libraries and the UC Interfaith Coalition, he initiated and assisted in the creation of the prayer and meditation space within Langsam library last January. With Langsam being a hub for students of all majors, the space is a symbol of inclusion, peace, and collaboration, open to all UC students in need of a place of calm.
Savani’s impact at UC will be felt long after his impending 2020 graduation, delayed by the global pandemic. His work is driven by change and collaboration. In our 40-minute interview, he never took full credit for any of these initiatives, always noting the contributions of his peers and highlighting his mentors. Savani is aware of the privileges that are parallel with his marginalization and constantly works to blaze an easier path for those that come to UC after him.
He is a leader, but he strives to work with others. He lives by the motto “everybody eats.” Some would re-contextualize this saying as “lifting others as you go”. He does not believe in personal success being independent of those around you, rather he defines success as being surrounded by successful people and empowering those around you.
Outside of UC, Savani maintains a vibrant circle of friends that he says he’s lucky to have. Since age 16, he has also become a trained barber, even doling out haircuts to his friends and family. Since the pandemic quarantines started, he has also brushed up on his culinary skills, with friends hyping his ability. A world traveler, he hopes to continue his journeys after graduation—once the world calms down.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the future for all of us, but for Savani his goal stays the same: to help those who need it. One of his dream ventures is a consulting agency for minority-based businesses. By bridging the gap between smaller, POC-owned companies and new technologies, he hopes to create more growth opportunities for these businesses and balance the scales.
With all things considered, Umaize Savani is a model Bearcat. He naturally embodies the outgoingness and craving for innovation and collaboration that everyone at UC, in Cincinnati, and everyone in the world should live by. He is a catalyst for change with an infectious energy that motivates others. We are proud to make him our last UC Community Spotlight focus for the semester and we wish him the best of luck in his endeavors post-graduation.