Published: 13 Feb 2023

Coinciding with the arrival of the New Year January 1 2023, Muhammad Rizki Nugraha Darma Nagara or familiarly called Deris Nagara, was officially elected President of the Student Executive Board (BEM) at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia University, New York, United States (US). Deris, who is continuing his Master of Public Administration studies at the university, will hold the position during 2023-2024 academic year.

It is undoubtedly a remarkable accomplishment for Deris to have been chosen as the BEM President. Not just for himself or his family, but also for Indonesia and President University, where Deris pursued a full scholarship scheme to study international relations from 2015 to 2019. Moreover, Deris, who was born in Bandung, May 4, 1997, and grew up in Ciamis, West Java, is the first Indonesian to hold this important position at SIPA, Columbia University, a university included in the Ivy League category there.

The term "Ivy League" is used to refer to eight universities that are considered the greatest in the US in terms of graduate quality and education. Harvard University, Brown University, Columbia University, Dartmouth University, Penn State University, Princeton University, Yale University, and Cornell University are among the eight institutions. Therefore, attending one of those eight campuses to study is not simple.


The Election Process was like running for Public Office

Deris told about the process of selecting the President of BEM. He said, "Starting from determining the criteria, the selection process to the implementation of the election was like PEMILU in Indonesia." In order to be elected, Deris conducted a campaign on social media and around the campus area. He explained, “Candidates are given the opportunity for one day to campaign in public. Then, the evening continued with the presidential candidate debate. The final decision was determined by voting from all Columbia University SIPA students."

During the campaign period, Deris adopted the theme “Unity in Diversity”. He chose this theme because of his experience of more than nine years of dedicating his life to youth empowerment, education advocacy, community development, and student exchange. This experience made Deris confident that as President of BEM at Columbia University, he would be able to create a positive impact, such as making inclusive change.

As President of BEM, one of Deris' tasks is to provide solutions and advocacy for policies and services and the challenges faced by students. For this reason, he must be observant and cognizant of the aspirations of students at Columbia University.

Deris emphasized that despite his many commitments as BEM President, studying was still his first concern. Moreover, he managed to study there in New York thanks to funding from the Indonesian government through a scholarship from the Education Fund Management Institute (LPDP), a work unit under the Ministry of Finance. Deris also hopes that all of his experience and skills learned while studying at Columbia University can also later be implemented in Indonesia.


Unlocked Characters

Deris was raised in a modest household and upheld essential Sundanese traditional principles. Deris claims that Sundanese culture is renowned for its kindness. Sundanese are renowned for their delicate speech and sensitivity to how attitudes and behaviors are expressed.

Deris attended Ciamis schools from kindergarten through high school. Deris sought to enroll in public universities after finishing high school. He was, regrettably, rejected. Deris ultimately decided on President University.

Deris actively involved in a variety of student activities on and off campus while enrolled in the International Relations Study Program. He participated in debate tournaments, served as the 2019 Putra Putri Nusantara Ambassador, was engaged in AISEC President University, was a National Generation Planning Ambassador, Paguyuban Mojang Jajaka Ciamis,and many more.

When entering the apprenticeship period, Deris was accepted as an apprentice and at the same time participated in a student exchange program at the Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN), Arnhem, the Netherlands. While at HAN, Deris was involved in various activities, such as international student associations, TEDx Arnhem Talks, ABS Debate Club and various other courses and programs.

His experience while abroad opened Deris's horizons. He said, now he has become more mature in dealing with different cultures and societies, including their various challenges. Frequent trips abroad for the purposes of education and diplomacy have made Deris more open to the characters of the various countries he has visited. “All of that makes my point of view now wider.


Now, I always think in a global and multinational perspective," said Deris. That is Deris, an alumnus of International Relations, President University, and at the same time the first Indonesian to be officially elected as President of BEM at Columbia University. Congratulations!. (Chery Kumala, Tim PR. Photo: Deris Nagara)