Graduation usually involves nostalgic reflection of years and semesters past, but for 2015 graduate Raaheela Ahmed, it was about looking toward this university’s future — even if she’s no longer a part of the picture.
Ahmed, who served as the 2014-15 student regent for the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, officially ended her term June 30.
“The position has been so amazingly influential in my growth,” said Ahmed, who plans to begin working as a finance associate in Grant Thorton’s global public sector in August. “I never thought I would grow this much as a person through a position, and I have because of all of the turmoil and all of the craziness that’s been ensuing for the past year.”
Despite entering into the position nearly two months later than expected — her term depended on when the governor officially announced her — Ahmed found herself at the center of a number of important university system decisions — a surprising number that affected this university.
This past school year, the board addressed various controversial issues, including the renovation of Cole Field House, a midyear tuition increase and differential pricing for this university’s business, engineering and computer science students.
With equal voting rights as the other board members, Ahmed served as the only student voice on the 17-member board, and was often reminded while serving on the board of her duty to represent the student body. The Cole Field House and tuition increase decisions required her to remind her fellow regents of the students and how they felt or would be affected.
In the case of Cole Field House, for example, Ahmed reminded the board of the student groups that would be displaced by the renovations, and instituted an amendment to the proposal that required student groups’ space needs were “met in a timely and cost effective manner.”
“As the board moved from consideration of one topic to another, Raaheela always kept her focus on representing her constituency — the students of the University System of Maryland,” Regent Gary Attman said.
With the midyear tuition increase, Ahmed said she felt it was necessary to remind the board of the 2003 class action lawsuit, which University of Baltimore and University of Maryland, Baltimore students filed. Although the board eventually imposed the midyear tuition increase, Ahmed’s research contributed to the discussion and gave board members a tangible example of how their potential actions could affect students and the university system as a whole.
“The role of the student regent is to be attuned to student sentiment, and vote given the breadth of knowledge that they have through the student, staff and presidents of the system, among other research,” Ahmed said, referencing her typed compilation of advice for incoming student regent Sydney Comitz of the University of Baltimore.
Ahmed worked diligently in the remainder of her term to prepare Comitz for the year ahead. She proposed and planned a student regent alumni reception which took place in June, at which regents from as far back as the 1990s came together to discuss their experiences and compile advice for Comitz.
“In terms of transition, Raaheela has gone above and beyond to ensure I am ready to step into this position,” Comitz said.
Walking away from a system that she has invested herself in for the past year is not an easy thing to do, Ahmed said.
“I wish I had more time,” she said. “That’s why I’m putting so much of my effort and emphasis on informing Sydney on things that she can look at, and lessons that I’ve learned.”
There are difficulties that come with serving only a one-year term. While student regents only serve for one year at a time, other regents serve five-year terms, a disparity Ahmed noticed affects the power of the student regent.
“As valuable as your opinion may be to other regents … it’s difficult because presidents know that you’re only going to be there for one year,” she said. Ahmed said she felt especially challenged in situations such as the differential tuition debate, although it never stopped her from advocating for the students.
Despite this, Ahmed impressed other regents in how she handled these limitations and the difficult decisions that faced the entire board throughout the year.
“When she said something, I think people would listen to her,” Regent Tom McMillen said. “She probably ranks among our best student regents.”