June 2, 2010

New student regent focused on improving minority education

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By Nick DiMarco
Nick@MarylandReporter.com

The newly-appointed student member for the University System of Maryland Board of Regents says he wants to use his new position to enhance academia at historically black colleges.

Leslie Hall, who takes a seat on the board in July, says he can provide the “diverse point of view” that the panel is lacking, as only one of three members who has attended an historically black college or university.

Hall, a 21-year-old senior from Bowie State University, was selected by Gov. Martin O’Malley in March for the job. Since then, he has been meeting with college presidents, planning campus tours, as well as getting to know his student peers in their respective student government associations.

“It feels great that the governor feels comfortable with me to do the job of a regent. I’m proud. I’m humbled. And I’m excited,” he said.

Hall’s top priority on the 17-member board that oversees the university system is to help minorities get better education. He said he wants to develop a task force to study closing the achievement gap between white students and minorities.

He also wants to raise the admissions standards at HBCUs to quell the negative perception that studies at Bowie state have indicated the schools carry.

“Going to an HBC school, I know the inequities that lie with other institutions in the system,” he said.

O’Malley appointed Hall to the position in March, and he will take his seat in July. According to O’Malley’s office, Hall stood out from other candidates because of his experience serving as the student member on the Prince George’s County Board of Education, where he dealt with issues that affected students.

“Leslie demonstrated his ability to be an effective member and a voice for students,” deputy press secretary Christine Hansen wrote in an email. “Leslie Hall will help the State of Maryland continue the progress we have made in building the No. 1 ranked school system in America, and to continue the investments we have made in our human capital.”

Outgoing student regent Sarah Elfreth, whose last day is June 30, said Hall should start strong this summer.

“Jump right out of the gate and get running as soon as possible,” she said. “A year goes by so fast. You start off with all these goals and then crisis happens, you’re thrown a few curve balls, and you realize you don’t have as much time as you thought you had.”

Elfreth was a key figure in mobilizing and communicating with students to lobby against a system-wide “porn policy” after an incident at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“I’m sad to be leaving because just as I’m feeling extremely comfortable with it, I have to go,” she said. “He seems very excited and enthusiastic about what he wants to do with his role.”

Elfreth, a recent Towson University graduate, will pursue a masters degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University in the fall.