About Our Staff

Gina Waneis, Program Coordinator
Gina Waneis (she/her/هي) is a proud first-generation Syrian-American. As an alumna of UC Riverside, Gina holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Education. During her undergrad, she was active with the Middle Eastern Student Center, where she became a founding sister of Epsilon Alpha Sigma, also known as the Empowered Arab Sisterhood, and was involved in Highlander Orientation. Gina graduated with an M.S. in Higher Education from California State University, Fullerton.
 
She helped start the SWANA organization and co-wrote the SWANA Resolution during graduate school. Most recently, Gina served as the inaugural SWANA Retention Specialist at UC Santa Cruz, where she helped build a foundation by creating signature programs, improving data practices, and increasing visibility for the community. Outside of these roles, Gina serves as a Director of Scholarships for the Syrian Americans Network For Educational Advancement and as the Communications Coordinator for NASPA Region VI.
 
In her free time, you can catch Gina spending time with her family, traveling with her friends, or trying new recipes she finds online.
Rania Saber, Social Media & Marketing Intern 

Rania Saber is our Social Media and Marketing intern. She is a 4th-year student majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Psychology.

Rania is an Egyptian-American. Some of her hobbies include sketching, painting, making jewelry, and playing tennis. She loves trying new things, traveling, fashion, and music. 

Rania loves working at the MESC because she did not grow up with a SWANA community and was able to find that community at UCR through the MESC. Her role with the MESC involves promoting the SWANA community through social media, creating meaningful infographics to raise awareness, uplift our community members, and creating a safe space for students to express themselves and their culture.

Ranya Oubeid, IMPACT intern for Sahaba Initiative
Ranya Oubeid is our IMPACT intern for Sahaba Initiative. She is currently a 4th-year Psychology Major on track to graduate in June of 2024.

She is a first-generation Syrian Muslim-American and the daughter of two Syrian Muslim immigrants. Among her extensive list of hobbies, she loves baking, cooking, and painting as well as going to the gym and hanging out- whether it be with her friends, family, or her two cats. However, her favorite pastime is definitely napping. She plans on getting her masters in social work and hopes to become a therapist with the dream of one day opening her own clinic.

The reason she joined the MESC is because it was one of the ways she made a lot of friends in her first year, and she wants to be able to be a familiar face to people, saying that she wants to provide a community for Middle Eastern students on campus. Her favorite event put on by the MESC would certainly be ME week and of that week, her favorite part was the Culture show.
Leila Makar, IMPACT Intern for Glocally Connected

Leila Makar serves as our IMPACT Intern for the Human Migration Institute - Globally Connected. She is a third-year Business Administration student on the Pre-Law track, expected to graduate from UC Riverside in the Spring of 2025.

Leila was born in Egypt but spent the majority of her life in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Some of her many hobbies include going to the gym, playing tennis and soccer, swimming at the beach, and spending time with family and friends. She aspires to work in a Big Law firm after graduation and is working towards that goal through this internship and her involvement in the student organization 'Womxn in the Law.'

Leila began working at the MESC to network with more SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) individuals to create lifelong memories and friendships. Her role involves serving as the liaison between the MESC at UCR, UC Riverside, and HMI to facilitate numerous community and campus projects aimed at increasing student understanding and involvement with HMI. Her favorite memory so far was the cooking class, as it was filled with jokes, laughter, and genuine bonding, bringing the whole team together to produce a final outcome.

Aakif Iqbal, Marketing and Communications Intern
Aakif Iqbal is our Marketing and Communications Intern. He is currently a second-year student majoring in both Computer Science and TFDP with a concentration in Filmmaking. 
 
He is a Pakistani and Kashmiri American who enjoys a variety of hobbies whether it be watching movies and writing reviews, watching interviews with artists, learning about history, listening to music, playing and making music, and reading. His favorite movie of all time is "The French Dispatch" and his favorite album is "Apologies to Queen Mary" by the band Wolf Parade.
 
Aakif’s favorite memory thus far was the Fall open house. He says the reason he loves it so much is because that event is what introduced him to the MESC and is the event that he made most of the friends he has on campus. Besides the open house, he also says he loved the Culture show which was put on during ME week because he got the ability to Dabke with a professional Dabke group and also perform guitar.
 
Isabella Annabi, Social Media and Marketing Intern
Hasan Ismail, IMPACT Intern for Arab American Civic Council
Hasan Ismail is the IMPACT intern working with the Arab American Civic Council. He is a 4th-year Iraqi-American student currently working towards his Bachelor's degree in Psychology.
 
When he isn't grinding away with school and work Hasan dabbles in a handful of hobbies such as snowboarding, riding fixed-gear bicycles, and skating. If you see him around campus be sure to say hi! 

Hasan loved coming to MESC prior to working with us. He wanted to work at MESC because it provides a safe space for the SWANA communities on campus at UCR with a focus on bringing the community together! His favorite memory is the first MESCafe session he attended where he didn't say anything but came back the next week and was able to contribute. For those who don't know, the MESCafe is a weekly breakfast the MESC hosts, often in the lounge where members of the space come together to talk about current issues, SWANA culture, and a variety of other topics.