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Columbia Business Monthly

Mayor Benjamin Welcomes New Mayor’s Fellows To City Hall

Feb 08, 2019 11:08AM ● By Kathleen Maris

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin welcomes eight students to the Mayor’s Fellows program. The program provides both undergraduate and graduate-level students with the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of how a high-energy local government office operates. The fellowship caters to students seeking course credit or to those simply wishing to gain public service experience.

To date, the Mayor’s Fellows program has had more than 200 students participate.

The application for the summer and fall terms of the Mayors’ Fellows program is open and can be found at

This spring’s fellows:

Abdulkhalim Baymatov (Columbia, S.C.), is originally from Uzbekistan and is now a permanent resident of the United States. He is pursuing a master’s degree in technology innovation and entrepreneurial engineering at the University of South Carolina. He likes to find ways to use innovation to enhance people’s lives. After graduating, he wants to become an entrepreneur and start his own business. Baymatov hopes to gain practical experience and understand how the local government is involved in community development. Through this program, he looks forward to building a network of people involved in business, start-ups, and the entrepreneurial community.

Zachary Blackwood (Fort Mill, S.C.) is a junior in the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. He is pursuing majors in finance and supply chain management & operations with minors in data analytics and mass communication. He has a mind for problem-solving and is passionate about understanding the logistics behind both businesses and government entities. Upon graduating, Blackwood hopes to work at a consulting firm while also pursuing his MBA at night. Through the Mayor’s Fellows program, he hopes to gain knowledge on the intricacies of government policy and how it overlaps with the corporate world. In his spare time, Blackwood enjoys being involved on campus, spending time with family and friends, and supporting his university at sporting events.

Olivia Christine (Washington, N.J.) is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina majoring in mass communications and minoring in leadership studies. She is interested in learning about crisis communications and how a capital city works and communicates with its citizens. By being a Mayor’s Fellow, she will be able to learn about them directly and will be able to sharpen her writing and communications skills for her future career working for a mass media corporation. Christine is a Chi Omega at USC and in her spare time enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Sean Dolan (St. Louis, Mo.) is a freshman at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina majoring in international business and management and minoring in German and data analytics. In the future, he plans to pursue a career in consulting. Dolan joined the Mayor’s Fellows program because he has an interest in local government and hopes to become more involved in his community through his work in the Office of the Mayor. He is eager to learn about the relationships and interactions between governments and businesses in addition to making valuable connections in the two fields. In his free time, he enjoys playing soccer and studying languages.

Rachel Gatzulis (Dayton, Ohio) is a senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in public health and minoring in business administration. She is eager to be a first-hand witness to how local government functions and is excited to aid in the important work that takes place in the Office of the Mayor. Upon graduating, Gatzulis hopes to move back north and work as a healthcare consultant for a few years before going to graduate school. In her spare time, Gatzulis enjoys reading, exercising and going to the movies.

Sydney Melton (Beckley, W.Va.) is a student at Midlands Technical College where she is pursuing an Associates of Arts. When she graduates, she hopes to go to flight school to fly helicopters in the Army National Guard. Melton is interested in makeup, college football, and aviation. As a fellow, she hopes to gain experience working in local government and meet new people.

Yumi Naruke (Columbia, S.C.) is a junior at Dartmouth majoring in film and media studies and minoring in human-centered design. She is currently exploring her career interests and is excited to see what she will learn from working in the Office of the Mayor. As a Fellow, Naruke hopes to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of local government. In her free time, she enjoys reading, eating, and playing pool.

Miranda Richardson (Sumter, S.C.) is a senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in political science with a double minor in journalism and women and gender studies. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school or law school to further her education and increase the potential for her career. Her career goal is to become a political consultant and be an advocate for women’s rights. As a Mayor’s Fellow, Richardson desires to practice different skills and improve her ability to communicate. She would also like to learn how to prepare and maintain community projects that will ultimately better her community and enhance her character.