Runner-up in University of Maryland’s SGA Elections Hopes to “Impact” College Community Even After Loss

By Hannah Stryker

Sporting a Long Beach Island sweatshirt and worn-out ASICS sneakers, Kelly Sherman was running through her hilly suburban neighborhood in New Providence, New Jersey on April 26 when she found out she lost the 2020 University of Maryland Student Government Association election.

Sherman had been listening to Dang! by Mac Miller on her run when she got a phone call from a reporter at The Diamondback. Upon seeing the caller ID, Sherman registered that the call was most likely related to the election results, so she let it go to voicemail. Sherman wanted to view the results herself, so she checked UMD SGA’s website, only to find she would not be serving as SGA’s president from 2020-2021. 

“I was devastated that our ticket lost, but elated for the individuals who had won their specific seats,” Sherman said. 

Sherman was the student body candidate of the Impact UMD ticket, which had 23 other candidates covering various platforms like diversity and inclusion, and financial affairs, according to Impact UMD’s Instagram account, impact.umd.   

Candidates were able to begin campaigning April 15, merely a few days before the election was held from April 22 to April 24. 

Of 4,384 votes cast, Sherman received 36% of the vote, while newly-appointed SGA President Daniel Alpert of Forward Maryland received 57%; 5% abstained, according to UMD SGA’s website. Although Sherman lost the presidency, twelve Impact UMD candidates were elected for their individual seats, according to UMD SGA’s website.

Impact UMD had a central focus on promoting student health and wellness, and the idea was developed between January and February, Sherman said. As a junior public health science major, Sherman said she wanted to change how the university handles student health.

“I think during this time with the coronavirus and just everything that has happened on our campus with different scandals related to health, like the adenovirus and mold…we need to be making sure that’s a priority for students on campus,” Sherman said. 

In high school, Sherman was involved in Model U.N. and her class council. She joined SGA during her freshman year of college as the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences representative, according to Sherman. 

During her sophomore year, Sherman joined SGA’s Health and Wellness Committee, she said. Sherman used this platform to plan events and educational campaigns like the opioid overdose prevention and response training workshop she established through SGA, she said. 

This year, Sherman became the director of the Health and Wellness Committee and she worked on a policy initiative to change the smoking policy on campus, she said.

“The School of Public Health has a grant from the American Cancer Society to implement smoke-free, tobacco-free, vape-free campus,” she said. “They want to try to do that by the end of 2021, so that’s pretty exciting and that’s something I worked on.”

Michael Mareno, a sophomore government and politics and English double-major, was also on the Impact UMD ticket. Mareno ran to become an off-campus neighboring representative, but only received 15% of the vote and lost, according to the UMD SGA website. 

Mareno grew up in Ocean City, Maryland and said that he received poor sex education geared towards LGBTQ+ individuals in his conservative town. Mareno combined his own personal experience with how Sherman wanted to press the idea that UMD needs an expanded LGBTQ+ sex-ed program, which he said ultimately made him want to join Impact UMD.

Impact UMD also hoped to implement an all-gender bathroom regulation standard on campus through its diversity and inclusion platform, which Sherman invited Mareno to discuss because he was passionate about the issue, he said. 

“Kelly recognizes when somebody she works with is passionate about an issue,” Mareno said. “Rather than letting it be only her that talks about it, she’s like: here’s the baton, run with it.”

Although Mareno has never met Sherman in person due to the coronavirus, he said that Sherman and him still talk even though the election has ended.

“Yesterday she sent me a thing and she was like, ‘Hey look it’s National Sexual Education Month!’ It’s nice because she’s remembering what I’m interested in, even though that experience has come and gone, and it didn’t go exactly the way we wanted,” Mareno said.

Sophomore bioengineering major Jessica Conway voted for Impact UMD because the campaign addressed issues she has personally encountered like limited mental health resources on campus, she said.

“I liked the ideas that the platform had as a whole, and thought that Kelly with her focus on health and wellness would be a good leader during this pandemic,” Conway said. 

Although Sherman’s campaign initiatives were favored by some people, others found that it was lacking in some areas. [new graf] Naomi Lichtenstein, a sophomore environmental science and policy major, voted for the winning committee, Forward Maryland. 

Lichtenstein said she felt Impact UMD did not have enough tangible plans regarding undocumented students representation.

Lichtenstein said that Alpert of Forward Maryland “does a very nice job finding out what constituents would want to see from SGA.”

Impact UMD’s plan for undocumented students was to fill the coordinator position for undocumented first-generation students on campus as part of the diversity and inclusion platform, according to impact.umd on Instagram. 

Sherman debuted this notion on social media, which she said was extremely important since in-person campaign events were impossible.

This was the first year that SGA elections were held online, so candidates had to remotely reach out to their audience to push their campaigns. Sherman said that Impact UMD used the app TikTok as its main outlet for engaging with potential voters. 

“It’s great to put us in an approachable light and have a fun conversation with students,” Sherman said about TikTok.

Sherman said she wanted to push the notion that Impact UMD candidates are students too, and she didn’t want to be taken too seriously during the difficult time of remote learning.

Sherman also took to Instagram, where she would direct message students to see if they were interested in voting, she said. The Impact UMD Instagram account was used as a hub for facts about campaign initiatives, and also acted as a resource for students to ask candidates questions and leave feedback. 

A video led by Sherman was posted the day voting opened on the Instagram account that featured all Impact UMD candidates describing what Impact UMD stands for. 

“Impact UMD is unity, perseverance, determination, authenticity, empowerment…” members say in the video. 

Sherman wanted students to see social media as a way of connecting with Impact UMD, she said. 

Maahi Saini, a sophomore majoring in government and politics and international relations, ran as an off-campus neighboring representative along with Mareno, but also lost. Saini said that this was her first experience with SGA as she never joined in high school. Sherman personally called her to talk about running for a legislative position, she said.

“From my first conversation with her on the phone I knew I wanted to be on her ticket,” Saini said. “She’s the kind of person that made me feel like a long-lost best friend.” 

Sherman was the key to the entire Impact UMD experience, according to Saini. 

“She is a leader in every definition of the world because she had nothing but good words to say in the most stressful moments, and created an ambiance of inclusivity,” Saini said. 

With the elections over, and a year left in her UMD career, Sherman wants to invest more time into the school’s public health, she said. Her ultimate goal is to establish a dean’s advisory council in the School of Public Health, where students would be able to engage with Dean Boris Lushniak and learn what his policies for the upcoming semester would be, she said. 

“Sometimes there’s a big disconnect between students and adults and problem-solving, so I think it’s important to have that advisory council to make sure that the policies that are going into place benefit students the most,” Sherman said. 

Although her time with SGA has come to a close, Sherman still hopes to make an “impact” in her own way at UMD by always seeking to represent student opinion. 

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of SGA’s Facebook Page

Hannah Stryker is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at hannahstryker70@gmail.com.

 

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