by Renee Domogauer
As an old saying reminds us, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Twenty-year-old University of Maryland (UMD) sophomore Hayden Renaghan is busy — seriously busy. And she’s getting a whole lot done, too.
Old Town’s tidy streets speak to Renaghan’s energy and dedication to the city. She is the UMD Student Government Association’s (SGA) deputy liaison to the College Park City Council and is active in the Clean City Project, a collaborative initiative of three university organizations: the SGA, the Interfraternity Council and the Pan-Hellenic Association. The project’s team tackles weekly street clean-ups in the city as part of their commitment to sprucing up the city. “Students want it known that it’s their town, too, not just a pit-stop for them,” Renaghan explained. The university’s Office of Community Engagement, the College Park Department of Public Works and the city council also participate in the Clean City Project, along with a number of residents. (The SGA has posted a form at ter.ps/cpcleanup that residents can use to report areas needing attention.)
Renaghan understands the importance of ongoing engagement. “We really have to encourage the leadership to remain diligent in the initiatives we undertake,” she said.
When asked how leaders can model constructive behavior, Renaghan said, “Show people why they should care. Prove there are tangible benefits to respecting their community, to contributing, to leaving it a better place than they found it.” This perspective resonated with her fellow student leaders. “She continues to demonstrate a passionate commitment to the projects she works on in her new role as chief of staff,” UMD student body president Kislay Parahsar wrote in an email.
Renaghan, a North Chevy Chase native, attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School (B-CC), where she was student body president in her senior year. In this role, she advocated for policy change and led her fellow students in raising funds to support a number of initiatives; she said that her “crowning achievement” was a fundraiser which brought in $20,000 for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.
Renaghan, who applied to a dozen schools, decided that UMD was a great fit, and she has not been disappointed. She has a double major in philosophy, politics and economics, and Spanish. She started at UMD in fall 2020, while classes were virtual. Seeking involvement beyond her coursework, Renaghan contacted the SGA’s lead recruiter. “I didn’t know what position I’d wind up with, but I knew I wanted to be a part of SGA,” she said. Her enthusiasm and leadership experience impressed SGA officers, who brought her on board.
While still a freshman, Renaghan worked with former SGA liaison to the city council, Dan Alpert, to gain experience. During her sophomore year, she applied for Alpert’s position but didn’t get it; she became deputy liaison, instead. In this role, Renaghan organized a panel, “Leaders of Lakeland,” for Good Neighbor Day. The panelists explored Lakeland’s history and the impact of the city’s urban renewal initiative in this historically Black community, and presented information about the Lakeland Community Heritage Project. Renaghan and her fellow student leaders also organized a candidates panel on campus in the leadup to last fall’s city elections.
And as if her course load and involvement with the city weren’t enough, Renaghan also works at the university’s undergraduate student legal aid office. “We are able to provide free and life-changing legal assistance to any undergraduate on campus,” she noted.
When asked about her goals and dreams for the future, Renaghan laughed: “Well, if you mean this week?” She has considered some tantalizing options — law school, perhaps? A graduate degree? Maybe a stint in the Peace Corps? Whatever Renaghan chooses to do, wherever she decides to land, one thing is clear: She will be busy, working to make the world a better place.