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UMES junior named to state-level post

  • Aaliyah Edwards appointed University System of Maryland student regent

    Wednesday, July 15, 2020
    Aaliyah Edwards

    Aaliyah Edwards, a junior exercise science major from Parkville, Md., will be the first student to serve a two-year term representing peers on the governing board of the University System of Maryland. 

    A 2019 state law change doubled the number of student appointees to two that Maryland's governor starting this year can make to the panel responsible for oversight of all but two of the state's public, four-year colleges. 

    Edwards initially will be a non-voting member of the system's Board of Regents for the 2020-21 academic year, then transition next year to being a voting member.  Salisbury University senior Nathaniel Sansom is this year's USM student regent with voting privileges. 

    “I take this position very seriously,” said Edwards, a dean's list student.  “I wanted to show people you have to take chances. You have to step out of your comfort zone.” 

    The amended state law, introduced by a former student regent now serving in the General Assembly, is designed to give students an opportunity to observe the board conducting business before assuming a voting role.  Edwards will be the first to benefit from that scenario. 

    At the urging of Star Ames, a fellow UMES student she considers a mentor, Edwards submitted an application that led to a recommendation by a screening panel that she be presented as a qualified nominee to Gov. Larry Hogan.  This spring's pandemic lockdown disrupted the formal process, so Edwards was sworn in during a low-key ceremony July 10 by a court clerk in Towson. 

    “This position is the best one I could step into,” she said. “I'm really big on leaving a mark on everywhere I go. I want to be a student … UMES is proud of.”

    Aaliyah Edwards' appointment credential

    Edwards is UMES' third undergraduate in the current USM governance system era to serve as a student regent, and the second in the past three years.  Langston Frazier, a golf management student, served during the 2018-19 academic year and had a front-row seat when regents endorsed the chancellor's choice to name Dr. Heidi M. Anderson UMES president. 

    A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Edwards said she and Frazier have spoken, and he's offered congratulations and advice on how to approach the job representing an estimated 173,000 students across 12 institutions.

    "Go with your gut and do what you think is right for best interest of the students. Ask challenging questions," Frazier said he told Edwards. "You won't see your results right away, but it have a lasting impact for many years to come across higher education."

    "I also think UMES students should care about this honor because this is proving across the state and country that people are listening and taking notice to what's happening at UMES as well as showing the high caliber of students and graduates we are producing," Frazier said.

    As a high school student in Baltimore County, a career in law intrigued Edwards.  When she enrolled at UMES, however, she settled on studying exercise science -- a choice she hopes will lead to a graduate degree as a physician assistant. 

    Edwards does not yet have a formal platform of issues but believes using social media and virtual town halls are crucial to connecting with and listening to students in far-away locales like Frostburg, Towson and Bowie. 

    “I want them to think I'm walking with them,” she said. 

    Edwards, who has been a campus tour guide, is anticipating fellow students reaching out with questions about navigating challenges that go with being a college student under the cloud of a global pandemic. 

    “It's been very alarming to me,” Edwards said.  “You only have four years to make great memories. You have people who will be sophomores (this fall) who didn't have the full freshman year experience.” 

    “I like politics because I like helping people,” she said.  “I see this (appointment) as an opportunity to help students who don't know how to get information.” 

    “Being a Black woman in America, I feel fortunate I'm in a place where I can get change done.”