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Karim Atassi: Founder of The McGill Arab Student Network

Pia Maria Abu-Mikhael for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): Tell me about yourself, what is your major? What year are you in? 

Karim Atassi (KA): Hey, I am Karim Atassi, a Hugh Brocks Scholarship student of McGill University. Currently in its third year, the focus of my Bachelor is an Honors in Physiology fueled with an aspiration to follow up with Medical school, right here in my hometown of Montreal.  


HC McGill: What is your role in the Arab Student Network?

KA: I am the Founder and current President of the McGill Arab Student Network. 

As its founder, I was responsible in outlining the application for the inaugural establishment of the McGill service. In order to this, I had to shift the ideals of the organization towards a secular and non-political service set to serve all students, non-exclusively. I thus drew the motion for the initiatives we aim to provide along with establishing a strong relationship with faculties, independent student groups, associations, local businesses and other services. More importantly, as its founder, I had to implement protocols for institutional heritage to ensure the long-term stability of the service. Therefore, I drew up the organizational structure, internal traditions, oath, general assembly and electoral by-laws, job responsibilities and constitution and assembled them in a 17,200 word “God Folder” to be passed down generations to come. 

As its President, I am responsible in directly managing the dynamic of the executive board and their respected committee members along with overseeing their output and task delegation. I am predominantly involved in innovating areas of collaboration and expansion with local businesses, associations, services, faculties and independent student groups for optimal resource allocation and student service support. I also represent the McGill Arab Student Network in radio podcasts, live interviews, TV coverage and meetings with representatives.

HC McGill: What is the Arab Student Network exactly? 

KA: Originally founded as the Arab Students’ Association in 1962, the McGill Arab Student Network has developed into the sole official service of the Students’ Society of McGill University, financed by a levy fee paid by the McGill Undergraduate student body, that broadcasts resources, education, awareness, support and opportunities of referral inspired by Arab culture, that are relevant to the integration and inclusivity of the general student body, via an inviable secular and non-political mandate.

HC McGill: What benefits does the ASN provide to all students both Arab and non-Arab?

KA: As a service of the Students’ Society of McGill University, ASN provides initiatives that all students can benefit from. 

In addition to its array of cultural, social and philanthropic events, the McGill Arab Student Network is keen on providing initiatives that include internship opportunities in the Arab world powered by AIESEC, opportunities to teach refugees English online via Opportutoring, the further introduction of Arab-speaking mentors in the International Student Services Buddy Program and discounts on meal delivery package deals installed by Yuma® to fit your diet lifestyle!

We also mediate the recruitment of students in positions in which a fluency in the Arabic language is demanded. Examples have included tutor positions and on-campus tour guides. We work closely with the Arabic Department in McGill to install an Arabic Summer Program for students around the world to immerse in the culture, whilst learning the third most spoken language in Montreal. 

In addition, we conclude deals with local Arab institutions, businesses, professionals and employers, to ease the monetary burden on student allowance by yielding considerable discounts for students on grocery store purchases, clothes and merchandise, purchases in fast-food chains, along with prioritizing and subsidizing seats for McGill students to attend the Arab Conference at Harvard and the MIT Arab Science & Technology Conference. 

ASN also provides opportunities of involvement whether through its diverse set of committees, executive board and general assemblies. Furthermore, we make use of our platform to create an enhanced neutralized learning environment via informing students of the awareness of facts that contradict their misconceptions, about the culture. For example, our most active post yet has been about how the first University in the world was established by an Arab woman! 

HC McGill: How did you get involved in the Arab Student Network, and how can others do the same?

KA: For me the involvement was quite different as the service did not exist beforehand. Therefore, its relevant to say that if anyone reading this has a vision to implement, they should go ahead and create their own path. To believe something is impossible, is to appoint an illusion of its lack of probability.

Nevertheless, the executive board positions at ASN are mediated by a campaign in which committee members vote. The Presidential position is voted on by the current executive board. To become a committee member, reach out to us on www.facebook.com/ASNMcGill and make sure to stay tuned for applications! 


HC McGill: How do you balance being an integral part of the Arab Student Network and your schoolwork?

KA: At times this was beyond difficult. However, the key behind it all was time management and the prioritization: everything is about the timing.

I hold with me at all times a portable planner that compartmentalizes my daily work and allows me to foresee any upcoming deadlines or responsibilities. A strategy that has helped me is to implement an ‘all or none’ mindset. This means that rather than merging responsibilities of schoolwork and ASN at the same time, I would allocate timeslots specifically tailored for full-focus on schoolwork, and likewise a timeslot solely to focus on  ASN work.   

Eating healthy, sleeping early and exercising help immensely in keeping a mental and physical balance to the harmony. 

HC McGill: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

KA: In five years, I hope to see myself choosing my Medical residency at McGill University and converging the experiences I learnt in interacting with people, to help others and treat patients. 


Images obtained from the interviewee.




Pia is a first-year student at McGill studying International Development and Economics, and minoring in Arabic. She was born in London, England and grew up in Dubai and Beirut. She loves travelling, and her ideal destination is anywhere with a beach.
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