All That Power

Bentley Corbett-Wilson, ’17, Music Education, is President of UMBC’s Student Government Association.

BentleyA friend came up to me last night and asked me, “How’s it going with all that power?” I thought for a second, and I said something along the lines of “You and everyone else who’s a student here are the ones with all that power. I’m just a primary voice for the power.”

I want everyone to know that YOU as students are the ones who can make this campus better. It is your ideas and passions that help drive this campus community, and I want you all to feel comfortable and inspired to use SGA to make those visions become reality. We want to do the work WITH you all, not FOR you.

So far, it has truly been an honor representing the student body, and SGA as an organization has started off the year on an AMAZING note. The SGA retreat was incredibly successful, and full of motivated and empowered student leaders. We welcomed new students to the campus by hosting Bubble Soccer. I had the honor of speaking at the Convocation, and (hopefully) inspired new students to make UMBC their home and pave their own ways to success.

I want to thank everyone who helped this summer to make sure that SGA started off on the right track this 50th anniversary year, and to everyone has shown their support and continued to have faith in me. I’m excited for all that this year has in store for myself, SGA, and UMBC!

Contact the author, Bentley Corbett-Wilson, at bcorbet1@umbc.edu

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Prove It!: Calling Campus Change Agents (App. Due 2/7)

Ganesh Mysore, ’15, Chemical Engineering and Political Science, and Valerie Parks, ’15, Financial Economics, are coordinating the Student Government Association’s 2013-2014 Prove It! competition.

Ganesh MysoreSince 2007, the UMBC Student Government Association has invited students to take ownership of their campus community with Prove It! Whether it is by constructing a plaza for students to study and relax, extending operating hours at our favorite library cafe, or installing more examples of student-created art on campus, Prove It! has embodied UMBC’s culture of empowering students to bring about the changes they want to see.

Valerie ParksThis year’s Prove It! competition offers up to $10,000 to two groups of undergraduate students with amazing ideas to make UMBC a better place for every member of our community. The deadline for applications this year is Friday, February 7th. Submitting an application involves working with your team of students to develop the idea you want to bring to reality next year. If you have questions, or just want to talk about an idea, please do not hesitate to send us an email (see below)!

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2011-2012 Prove It! winner The Retriever Project placed student-designed fiberglass statues of UMBC’s mascot around campus.

Gathering to announce winners of the original Prove It! contest in 2008.

Gathering to announce winners of the original Prove It! contest in 2008.

Prove It!Contact the authors: Ganesh Mysore at gmysore1@umbc.edu, and Valerie Parks at parksva1@umbc.edu.

A More Open Fee-Setting Process

Collin Wojciechowski ’13, political science and media and communication studies, served as the sole student member of the University System of Maryland’s governing Board of Regents, 2011-2012. Saqib Ashraf ’13, chemical engineering, is a member of UMBC’s new Student Fee Advisory Board (SFAB).

Collin WojciechowskiWhen I began my term as the student member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in July of 2011, students from nearly every campus in the USM understood that they paid mandatory fees but had no idea what this money was actually paying for. A student would stop me when I was visiting their campus and say something to the effect of, “I just saw my bill! I just saw my athletics fee! What is this money paying for?” It was with this issue in mind that I worked for the majority of my term to amend the Board’s policy on student fees and create what you know today as the UMBC Student Fee Advisory Board (a similar committee exists now on each campus in the USM).

My intention in creating these committees was not to freeze or reduce student fees, which are a necessary part of our education. Without them we would not have buses that run properly, computers that turn on, and the SGA would have no money to distribute to student orgs. Instead, my goal was to make students an active part of the conversation by making sure they understood their bill each semester and had a say in what was on it. Effective shared governance is shared governance that has open lines of communication, and that is precisely what my policy changes aimed to foster.

I am proud to say that at my last meeting as a Regent, in June 2012, the fee amendments passed, but that is simply the beginning of the work that needs to be done. It is now up to the student body to take advantage of this opportunity and speak up about the fees.–Collin Wojciechowski

Saqib HeadshotThis academic year, full-time undergraduates pay $2,679 in mandatory fees, and part-time undergraduates pay a prorated share based on the number of credits they take.  These fees support athletics, technology, the Commons, transportation, auxiliary facilities and student activities.  Fees for full-time undergraduates are projected to increase to a total of $2,772 for the next academic year, but the increase and its components are not set in stone.

The Student Fee Advisory Board (SFAB)–the committee created by the UMBC administration, Student Government Association and Graduate Student Association through Collin’s initiative–already has met with administrators overseeing each of the six mandatory fees. Now undergraduates have a chance to weigh in through an online survey that includes detailed information about the fees and the programs, services and facilities they support. If you’re a UMBC undergraduate, please take a few moments to share your perspective! The survey closes March 25th. Survey responses, which are completely anonymous, will inform the SFAB’s recommendations about fee levels and uses for next year.Saqib Ashraf

Contact the authors: Collin Wojciechowski at cwoj1@umbc.edu, Saqib Ashraf at ashrafs1@umbc.edu.

The Retriever Project: Designing a New UMBC Tradition

Travis Bell ’14, psychology, is in Chile this semester as a participant in UMBC’s Study Abroad program.

Sometimes ideas come from think tanks or committees. The Retriever Project idea started with two students sitting in a course called Civic Agency and Social Entrepreneurship (AMST/POLI/SOCY 205), taught by David Hoffman and Delana Gregg. We wanted to build community spirit at UMBC. Before long, we had two other students in the class working with us. Through our discussions, the idea evolved: The project became about having a place for the UMBC community to express what it means to be a UMBC Retriever. We envisioned putting up wall murals in the Breezeway.  But two weeks later, we noticed advertising space actually being created in the Breezeway, eliminating that option.

The idea evolved again: We thought about putting up large wall murals along the main academic row.  But through our research we discovered that there would be serious logistical challenges, and anyway the result probably would not produce the effect we had in mind. So at last we arrived at the idea of paintable statues that could be designed by [Read more…]

Voting and the Election Night Extravaganza

Meghan Carpenter ’14, American studies and political science, is director of community and governmental affairs for UMBC’s Student Government Association.

If you walk down UMBC’s main academic row and ask people if they’re sick of politics, many will say yes without skipping a beat. Understandably, it’s easy to be disenchanted with politics when candidates are constantly asking for contributions so that they can run more attack ads in swing states. In a state like Maryland where our votes don’t often appear to matter, it can be hard to believe that anyone’s solitary vote can make a difference.

On the contrary, voting cannot be more important. Throughout our nation’s history people have died, gone to jail, and spent countless hours protesting in hostile environments in order for everyone in America to be able to vote. Because of the sacrifice of many, we generally have the privilege of being able to discuss issues and vote on them, without intimidation or danger. Voting is vital because of the feeling of energy that comes from being able to push that button on Election Day, knowing that one second can make a difference in the country’s future. When young people vote, we make it more likely that public officials will pay attention to our priorities.

The UMBC Student Government Association is going to do everything it can this election season to make voting anything but a solitary act. Our campus strives to make elections into a community experience. We’re working with a lot of student organizations and [Read more…]

Let’s Talk about BreakingGround

BreakingGround is a philosophy of campus and community engagement, reflected in courses, programs, projects, and stories from UMBC change agents.

Now that you’ve seen or experienced some of what BreakingGround is about, will you join the campus and community conversation?  Here Kaylesh Ramu, UMBC’s SGA President, and David Hoffman, UMBC’s Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency, invite you to share your reactions, thoughts and ideas.

Learning to Make a Difference, By Making a Difference

Craig Berger is Coordinator of Student Life for Campus and Civic Engagement.

From the day I became the staff advisor to UMBC’s Student Government Association (SGA) last October, I often have experienced moments that clarify for me how fortunate I am to be working at this institution and with these students. One of these moments occurred a few weeks ago in the mountains of Frederick, at SGA’s annual retreat.

During the retreat, facilitated by students, the 50 participants learned about themselves and the organization, and considered strategies for applying our passions, talents, and skills to engage others in co-creating campus life. On the first day, we explored our own lives for “crucible moments”—instances of great significance and deep learning in our pasts that inform who we are and what we do today. The group spent the majority of the following day becoming familiar with SGA history, structure and people, its philosophy, and its approach to taking action. As the retreat came to a close, members tapped their collective histories and new knowledge as they identified community problems and conceived focused, ambitious and collaborative initiatives to solve them. [Read more…]

SGA President Ramu to Speak at National Press Club

Kaylesh Ramu On Tuesday, September 4th, UMBC SGA President Kaylesh Ramu will share the stage with the U.S. Under Secretary of Education and other leaders as they launch Shaping Our Future, a new national civic engagement initiative, at the National Press Club. Watch the event live online, 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. (a brief registration is required).

Shaping Our Future is a year-long national dialogue on the future of higher education. Kaylesh has been involved through her membership on the board of the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP), a national alliance supporting innovative approaches to civic education and strong connections between universities and communities. UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski serves on ACP’s Presidents’ Advisory Council. UMBC Shriver Center Director Michele Wolff, Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency David Hoffman and Coordinator of Student Life for Campus and Civic Engagement Craig Berger all serve with Kaylesh on the national board. [Read more…]

A Greater Purpose (video)

UMBC senior Kaylesh Ramu is President of the Student Government Association for 2012-2013. Here she shares insights based on her own transformative experiences, explains SGA’s groundbreaking engagement work and encourages students to get involved, get connected and start making a difference.

What is the ‘greater purpose’ of a college education for you? Add a comment to share your thoughts.


Contact Kaylesh Ramu at kramu1@umbc.edu.  Video by David Hoffman for BreakingGround.