Kiara Kabbara makes history as first Black female student body president in 32 years

Reya Mosby, Life & Arts General Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 8 flipbook.

Kiara Kabbara stood in her apartment surrounded by her friends, brother, campaign staff and running mate, Ethan Jones, eagerly watching the television. As the 2021-2022 student government election results broadcast across the screen, the room buzzed with nervous energy.

When McCombs Dean Lillian Mills announced Kabbara’s name, the apartment went into a frenzy. As Kabbara took in the news, her brother looked at her and said, “Kiara, do you realize you just made history?”

In winning, government senior Kabbara became the first Black female student body president elected to the position in 32 years, the last being Toni Luckett in 1990. Because Black students only make up 5.3% of UT’s student population, Kabbara said she feels she can use her position to advocate for underrepresented minorities on campus.

“Now, since I’m student government president, I want to make sure that everyone feels like (they) can have this position, too,” Kabbara said. “It’s time to make this change. We are the representation that actually needs to be in the position to make change because we are the ones that need it.”

With such a small Black population on campus, many incoming Black freshmen said they initially had concerns about coming to a university where they don’t see enough Black representation. 

“At first, I kind of felt like I wasn’t going to really be able to find other Black students,” exercise science freshman Aaliyah Barlow said. “Three thousand Black students sounds like a lot, but there’s over 50,000 students that go here. I just really thought I wasn’t going to be able to find my community.”

Barlow said she worried about not having any Black women in positions of power to look up to, but after seeing Kabarra as the student body president, she said she and other Black female students can have an air of hope and empowerment. 

“Seeing someone who looks like you succeed can take you so far,” Barlow said. “Sometimes, the Black students can struggle because they don’t see anyone that looks like them, that understands them. Having someone around that can truly relate to you can lift your spirit, help you succeed and feel close to home.”

Ethan Jones, student body vice president, stressed the importance for Black and other minority students to see people who relate to them on a closer level in places of success, like Kabbara. Students can look to someone who walked in their shoes and can give them a sense of familiarity, making success seem more realistic. After the recent Black Lives Matter protests, Kabbara’s success in the election impacted UT students in a more meaningful way.

“It’s important for minorities to see (themselves) in that way, especially coming after a year where if Black lives mattered or not was being questioned so much,” the business honors and public relations senior said. “I think that it says a lot about our school’s culture and our character. Despite the divisiveness in Texas, we still are pushing for what’s right and hoping to serve all people effectively.”

Kabbara said she wanted this position specifically so she could have a platform to help others. After taking on several service and leadership opportunities throughout both high school and college, she knew that her presidency would allow her to do what she always does best — serve her community. Her electoral success gave her the confidence she needed to recognize her own value as leader in the UT community.