Malik Evans is the rare exception to the stereotype of UR political science majors as non-engaged theorists. As one of four Democratic candidates for the City of Rochester School Board, the 2002 UR graduate is continuing his dedication to the city and its education system.
In the primary on Tuesday, Evans came in third. The primary was an important step, narrowing the field from seven candidates to four.
“It’s a long campaign, [but] the primary is a major, major hurdle,” Evans said.
Evans’ roots run deep in the community. He spent his childhood in Rochester, attending public schools through high school. Already as a high school student, Evans was striving to help others in his community, especially through education.
His family had a strong history of activism and interest in education. “I came from a strong family and strong community,” Evans said.
He considers himself one of the lucky ones who was nurtured from an early age all throughout school. However, he realizes that others are less fortunate. “Those students weren’t identified early [as needing help], so the problems rolled into a ball so big that they got frustrated and just gave up.”
When he was reading to look at colleges, he began by looking at different institutions with political science programs. UR was not even on his list. However, he found a place at UR right in his “backyard.”
“The older you get, the more you realize that UR is a world class university,” Evans said.
Even during his first year at UR, Evans was becoming active in trying to get UR more involved with the city’s youth.
“He always encouraged and prompted our students to reach out and give back to younger students,” Norman Burnett, Director of Minority Student Affairs said. “He is very committed to the city of Rochester and helping UR get more involved in the city. [His] interest in helping youth carried through to when he was a student here.”
“As a student, what impressed me most was that Malik was someone who grew up in Rochester, went to city schools, has an incredible work ethic and is committed to contributing and serving the city,” Professor of Political Science Gerald Gamm said.
Evans set himself apart early on because of his interest in practical politics.
“Very few students who come along have a zeal for learning and a passion for real-life politics,” Gamm said. “To teach someone who actually wants to apply [political science] is a particularly exciting thing.”
Despite a commonly held belief that UR’s political science department does not offer practical courses, Evans said he found the program helpful for his career in politics. “There are plenty of courses with hands-on experience,” he said.
While at UR, Evans was involved in student government as Students’ Association Treasurer as well as the Diversity Roundtable. “It was a joy to have him on the Diversity Roundtable. He always drew the student government into the diversity issue,” Burnett said, who is also the chair of the diversity roundtable. “He was a nice bridge between underrepresented minority students and student government.”
Evans believes that his experience at UR has shaped the way he engages others and his attitude towards the world.
“College teaches you to work with people from different backgrounds from all over the world,” Evans said. “The attitude UR has is what affected me the most. Our slogan is Meliora – always better, always doing better for your community. One of the ways I thought I could do so was to get involved in something that affects the community the most – education.”
His campaign has involved both faculty and alumni, through fundraisers, volunteering and serving on his staff. “I think he’s got very substantive ideas in education and a very deep commitment to life in the community,” Dean of The College William Green said.
“It is great to be able to help and vote for [Evans] in his first foray into politics, which I’m sure won’t be his last. We’ll be calling him mayor really soon I’m sure,” Todd Hildebrandt, Class of 2003 and a volunteer for Evans, said. “[Evans] has a lot of a great ideas how to begin the process of fixing the Rochester city schools and after seeing how great he ran our SA for two years I’m sure he’ll be part of a solution.”
Evans’ platform includes involving the UR community and other local colleges with the Rochester School District.
“I want UR to adopt a school or a couple of schools,” Evans said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could track a student from first grade through graduation, then give them scholarships.”
His desire to get college students involved with local schools is not only to benefit the city schools but also the college students.
“What you will find is the people who are successful in life started forming their opinions and doing service in college,” Evans said. “Shame on anyone who goes through four years and doesn’t get involved in the college or the community.”
Getting involved in the community – whether it be the campus community or the Rochester community – is at the heart of Evans’ philosophy and it is what he hopes students will gain from UR.
“[My advice to college students would be to] get involved. Work on a political campaign – Democrat or Republican. Work on my campaign. [Students] don’t expect [a campaign] to be the way it is. You learn so much by working on a campaign,” Evans said. “UR students have a lot of power if they decide to exercise it. Too many don’t – it’s trouble. They are cheating themselves. They can really make a difference,” he said.
Miller can be reached at email@example.com.