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2 UMD students fill roles with city council

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Posted on: June 6, 2024

By KATELYNN WINEBRENNER

Two new University of Maryland (UMD) student liaisons will start their year-long terms with the College Park City Council in June.

Erica Otte, a junior government and politics student, and junior philosophy, politics and economics major John Fahmy will serve as liaison and deputy liaison, respectively.

They replaced student liaison Dhruvak Mirani and deputy student liaison Gannon Sprinkle, whose terms ended last month.

“I’m very passionate about advocacy,” Otte said. “I wanted to bring that passion towards the city council liaison position.” 

The liaisons serve on the council as nonvoting representatives of UMD’s Student Government Association (SGA). Even though they cannot vote, they work closely with councilmembers on projects involving students and spread awareness of any city issues relevant to students.

In April, a panel made up of the mayor, two councilmembers and three SGA members interviewed seven applicants, Councilmember Maria Mackie (District 4), who was on the panel, said.

“It was really nice to see the passion of the students and their desire to be part of the city,” Mackie said. “It was really hard to choose, but I think we chose very well.

The panel selected Otte, and the SGA approved her during a general meeting on April 24.

Otte said one of her goals for her term as student liaison is to “make it easier for students to connect with the broader community, maybe [through] some opportunities or events here on campus, and to make it easier to raise a family in College Park, especially after graduating.”

Otte has held internships in local and national government.

Last summer, she interned for the Harford County Parks and Recreation Department, where she worked with children with disabilities and special needs. During the first half of this year, she was a congressional intern for U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (District 1-Maryland).

This summer, Otte will balance her new position with an internship with the juvenile crime division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Otte is also involved in multiple on-campus organizations, such as Empowering Women in Law. Her plan is to become a child advocacy attorney. 

“It’s very specific, and that’s kind of why I have the initiatives plan that I do,” she said, “but hopefully I can broaden those initiatives and include more things that aren’t kid-related.”

Mackie said this vision is what set Otte apart from the competition.

“The biggest thing was her real desire to build bridges between students and long-term residents,” Mackie said. “She doesn’t want to do the ‘us and them’ thing.”

After her confirmation, Otte, in consultation with the mayor, selected Fahmy to serve as deputy student liaison. 

“I applied to the position hoping that it would be an opportunity for me to sort of step in and provide a voice for the students … and work toward improving the city and making it a better place,” Fahmy said. “I just want to be able to give back to the community in any way that I can.”

In the past, Fahmy interned for the Harford County Bar Association and shadowed a judge with the Harford County Circuit Court.

Both liaisons expressed interest in continuing the work of those who held the positions in the past, including Mirani and Sprinkle.

“Beyond any opportunities that get students to connect with the wider community, I also would love to continue the initiatives of past liaisons,” Otte said.

Mirani and Sprinkle spearheaded several projects during their term, including a student rent subsidy pilot program. 

“Erica and I are definitely in touch with Dhruvak and Gannon,” Fahmy said. “We do plan to continue what they started. I don’t think their vision is going to die out with our start.”

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