UMBC’s Jordan Troutman ‘21, M29, enjoys challenging assumptions. Recently named the student commissioner for the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), Troutman isn’t studying public policy or political science, like many students involved in governance. He’s a computer science and mathematics major passionate about applying his work at the intersection of technology and policy to improve society.
Troutman’s research focuses on eliminating biases in algorithms that can lead to unfair outcomes and even impact life-changing decisions. Now, he’s turning his analytical approach and commitment to equity to work representing Maryland college students at the state level.
Representing students across Maryland
Troutman is a thoughtful, organized student whose energy and excitement for tackling new challenges shines through his beaming smile. He will serve as a voting member of MHEC for the 2019-2020 academic year, and sees his role as essential to “provide perspective on what it’s like to be a student right now,” he shares.
MHEC is responsible for establishing policies for public and private colleges and universities across the state of Maryland. Troutman explains that he learned about the opportunity to apply for the student commissioner role from Dan Barnhart, director of campus life at UMBC. The application process included a recommendation from Barnhart and a nomination letter from President Freeman Hrabowski.
Making an impact as a leader
Troutman served as a senator on UMBC’s Student Government Association during his freshman and sophomore years. It was through SGA that he learned about how groups like MHEC can impact the experiences of Maryland students at a high level.
As a senator, “Jordan has taken on such issues as academic conduct, more representative information technology, and more activity space for undergraduate students,” says Barnhart. “He communicates well with his peers, models outstanding leadership skills, and is a consummate team player.”
Troutman’s effective leadership style is what inspired Barnhart to recommend him for the MHEC role. “He understands the political system of a campus and works well in that system to accomplish his goals,” Barnhart explains. “All of the work he does in shared governance helps the student leaders, and the campus life department in co-creating amazing experiences for students at UMBC and beyond.”
Identifying biases in technology
Troutman is a Meyerhoff Scholar and a member of the Honors College who has been engaged in both research and student groups throughout his UMBC years. He conducts research with James Foulds, assistant professor of information systems, on identifying biases in machine learning technologies. Troutman received an Undergraduate Research Award to pursue a new line of research and will present his work at the annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day in the spring.
After he graduates, Troutman plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, with his sights set on working in both higher education as a professor and in industry research settings. He hopes to build collaborations among computer scientists, educators, and policymakers to develop technologies that do social good and benefit people around the world.
As MHEC’s student commissioner, Troutman looks forward to learning more about the challenges and issues that higher education institutions are facing today, particularly affordability and accessibility. “My role and intention is that when I’m speaking, I’m not speaking for me,” he says, “I’m speaking for students across Maryland.”
Banner image: Jordan Troutman, left, and Dan Barnhart. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.