The gloomy weather may not have been the perfect welcome to the new semester, but the expectations for the KAIST International Student Association’s (KISA) new administration remain as bright as sunshine. After a compelling victory in the concluded May elections (see Volume 171 for more details), Dinmukhamed Mailibay is to preside for the upcoming year. The KAIST Herald sat down with him to hear his thoughts on issues concerning both KISA and the international community.
Perhaps KISA’s utmost priority was — and still is — strengthening its campus presence. What plans do you have in mind to pursue this?
I’m trying to encourage KISA members to interact more actively with people. I would generally like to include more informal promotions of KISA so that in case anyone has any problems or suggestions, they wouldn’t have to go over the tedious formality of filling in forms. Also, some office teams of KAIST prefer letting us do some of the work they normally do before and have our organization’s input of ideas into it, which I believe could at least help people know more about KISA. This could potentially also widen our reach even to Korean students, which is a great first step to letting them understand the international community more. Finally, I also plan to collaborate with more student organizations in KAIST, although it is not strongly needed at the moment.
An integral part of your presidential campaign were your plans to rework the internal structures of KISA. Would you elaborate on how exactly you intend to reorganize these?
As the former head of the events division, I realized that the work channels (logistics) of KISA didn’t really let us achieve our full potential. During events, for example, the events division would normally go through everything from events planning and logistics down to on-the-spot event work. However, the finance division’s main purpose during events was only estimating the required budget and forwarding it to ISSS. Thus, we are extending the finance division to finance and logistics, whereas the events division could focus on event planning and organization. Another major difference is that we’re reallocating the management of KISA Voice to the welfare division, which previously worked only on the Lotteria need-based scholarship.
On more pressing matters within the international community, there are undeniably evident divisions between country groups or groups of similar cultural backgrounds. Do you have any ideas to encourage more exchange amongst these groups?
Depending on how this semester’s recruitment goes, we are thinking of organizing events that will help [people to better] understand other cultures. We plan to continue the monthly games from each culture or country [that] we launched last semester. Another one is, although tentative, a big cultural event. Unlike the International Food Festival, it would encourage more sharing rather than cultural separation. In addition, we want to encourage country representatives to engage more and promote interaction among different country communities rather than within [their own groups].
People with food restrictions struggle with insufficient dining options on campus. The International Kitchen, in its current state, seems to be ineffective in solving this problem. What solutions would you propose to address this issue?
I’ve learned from the previous semesters that the kitchen representatives weren’t fulfilling their expected roles, especially that many of the complaints were about dysfunctional kitchen equipment. But at least from what we’ve been told, equipment is being renewed regularly. One of the things we’re considering is putting in more thought when selecting kitchen representatives, in that they should be more aware of their expected roles. Another idea could be improving the selection process of kitchen participants. We could implement a country quota system rather than the current first-come-first-serve system to hopefully prevent certain country communities from dominating in numbers.
Aside from the previously mentioned issues, is there anything else you wish to work on or address?
I’ve noticed possible aspects of improvement for the quality of dormitory life, at least in minor ways. For example, I’ve heard clamors of discomfort from certain people about the curtainless dormitory shower stalls. Another one could be providing a storage room for those living in the West dormitories. Along that line, we’ll also be focusing on effectively [dealing with] the belongings of people who have left Korea permanently. KAIST Ara provides a good buy-and-sell outlet for Korean-speaking students, but many international students haven’t even heard of it since most of the information is in Korean.