CU Denver’s Middle Eastern Student Association

MESA co-founders Amanda Karimkhani and Iman Salhi || Photo by April Kinney

The newly founded student group hopes to grow their numbers and further contribute to diversity on campus

Founded in the Spring semester of 2021, The Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) is a student organization at the University of Colorado Denver, led by co-presidents and co-founders Amanda Karimkhani and Iman Salhi.

Membership is open to all that are interested. As Karimkhani and Salhi explain, “You do not have to identify as Middle Eastern to be a member of our club. All that we ask for membership is for students to agree to always be respectful of others and know that we do not take responsibility for a student’s actions as a club.”

The main objective of MESA’s co-presidents is unity. MESA aims to unite people from all similar lived experiences rather than in just a few aspects. Karimkhani recalls, “When I came onto campus as a freshman, I looked around and saw organizations for the Latino, African American, and Asian communities. I saw no organization where I could fit in and meet people that were like me culturally. I, moreover, saw no organization that appeared to advocate for the region and issues that I hold close to my heart.”

For both Karimkhani and Salhi, there is another larger, underlying reason for founding MESA; they intend to break preconceived boundaries about the Middle East. Sahli explains, “The Middle East is constituted as the region starting from Egypt on the far left and ending at Iran on the far right. This means that technically the Middle East is constricted to only about 16 countries, neglecting the countries in North Africa and some of West Asia that share similar values and experiences. [We] wanted to break down those boundaries and broaden what the Middle East means, geographically as well as culturally.”

Salhi and Karimkhani bring attention to the way that MESA contributes to the overall diversity of the campus because of this redefining of boundaries which are associated with the region of the Middle East. “We attempt to unite members from different races, religions, ethnicities, and political ideations.”

The Middle East continues to struggle with stereotyping and neglect as a whole. MESA aims to combat this by framing the region in a positive and inclusive way. This aligns with the ideals set forth by the University of Colorado Boulder’s MESA; the association here at CU Denver looks up to its sister school’s counterpart and hopes to collaborate with them soon in order to learn how to grow the association here and reach more members.

Karimkhani and Salhi hope to establish a strong foundation for the organization during their time at CU Denver, so that it remains active beyond their graduation dates. “It is a goal for [us] to see this organization not only remain an option for students here at CU Denver, but to be thriving long after [we] graduate. [We] hope to see MESA as a home and family for students that feel like they are not being seen or heard.”

The group holds weekly member meetings in the Student Commons Building (ACAD) on Wednesdays from 1–2 p.m., though the specific room number varies. If interested in attending a meeting, reach out to Karimkhani or Salhi via their Instagram, @cudenvermesa, or email, To learn more about the organization or to join, visit the student organization website at

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