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January 26, 2016

Graduate Student Fills SG’s Community and Government Liaison Position

Graduate student Carlos Ortiz joined Student Government’s Executive Committee as its new community and government liaison last month. The community and government liaison is responsible for working with the Executive Committee and for getting students more involved in Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and the South Side. The position had been vacant since third-year Alvina “Nina” Katemauswa resigned over the summer.

Ortiz is currently a student in the Committee on International Relations (CIR) M.A. program. According to the website for CIR, the program “trains its students to undertake cutting-edge analytical work and become intellectual leaders in all fields of international theory and practice.”

Ortiz said he was initially drawn to the position because he has always wanted to work in government and help people. Ortiz previously worked as a community liaison for New York state assembly member Brian Kavanagh.

“This position immediately drew my eye [because] this is exactly what I want to do in life,” Ortiz said.

After applying for the position in September, qualified applicants were required to present their proposals to all of the members of Student Government at December’s General Assembly meeting. Since being elected in late December, Ortiz has been working closely with Student Government President Tyler Kissinger and Vice President of Student Affairs Kenzo Esquivel.

Ortiz is interested in integrating gun violence prevention into his work as Liaison.

“[Kavanagh] founded a nationwide group called American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, and that kind of work is really interesting to me,” Ortiz said.

“The University of Chicago is this premier institution in the midst of all this gun violence, and if we’re able to take a leading role on that—or, at the very least, invite an open conversation about it—I think that would be really great. If [such violence] is affecting members of the community that much, it’s important, especially when you’re a student with access to so many levels of information and so many levels of access to so many types of people. You have a greater responsibility.”

Ortiz said he is looking forward to learning more about the inner workings and impact of Student Government during the months to come.

“I don’t know if Student Government has the ability to change the political implications of how the school runs itself, but I do know at the very least that Student Government has the ability to lend voice,” he said.

Ortiz said he aspires to work in public service and to connect members of the community with the locally elected.

“For me, [public service] is about finding something you enjoy working at; [something] that helps the people. Working in public service can be super frustrating, but then you have this moment where a person gets an increase in their food stamps because of something you did. It might have only been twenty dollars, but that twenty dollars means that this person isn’t running under budget that week. That’s an amazing win, and it feels amazing too; it’s better than any monetary enumeration. [Through this position], I hope to recapture some of that feeling,” he said.

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