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MDI and Its Civic Partners Provide Opportunities to Forge Student Connections to College Park Elected Officials

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The University of Maryland and the city of College Park have long been interdependent. They collaborate frequently on public projects including student housing and the Purple Line. However, many students at the University don’t interact significantly with the government of College Park despite living in the city most of the year. Collaborations across UMD have been working to facilitate more interaction and strengthen the relationship between UMD students and the city of College Park. Two recent events co-sponsored by the Maryland Democracy Initiative and its civic partners are the most recent examples. 

Thurgood Marshall Hall was the site for a candidate town hall on October 30 in which eight candidates for various city council districts and the current mayor of College Park, Fazul Kabir, came together to answer questions submitted by students and other constituents. The event, organized entirely by students, took place in advance of the November city council and special mayoral elections. The town hall was a collaboration between several campus partners including the University Honors class on democratic habits, the student liaisons to city council, UMD Student Government Association, UMD Department of Communications, Civic Innovation Center and the Maryland Democracy Initiative. 

Student organizer Sanika Devare ’27 said she hoped students would be more aware and informed as a result of this event, and that it would spark an interest in learning about policy.

On November 13, mayors from three cities with Big Ten universities – College Park, MD, Madison, WI and Ann Arbor, MI – gathered for a virtual discussion as part of the Big Ten 21st Century Democracy Collaboration, co-chaired by the Civic Innovation Center at the School of Public Policy. The mayors discussed the challenges that face college towns, with a specific focus on new initiatives regarding sustainability and affordability. Moderated by Jim Throgmorton, former mayor of Iowa City, they shared their larger-scale goals of creating sustainable public transportation and housing, while highlighting the policies they had implemented to achieve these goals. 

Mayor Kabir, the newest of the three mayors, highlighted the challenges and opportunities in College Park’s growth trajectory, including how residents want to preserve a small-town community feel amidst the growth.

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Megan Campbell
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