Board of Regent candidates meet with legislators and alumni

The University of Minnesota Alumni Association hosted the regent candidate forum Wednesday.

Miguel Octavio

Candidates vying for the University of Minnesota Board of Regent’s four open seats gathered at the State Office Building in St. Paul Wednesday to address their platforms.

The University of Minnesota Alumni Association hosted the forum as an opportunity for legislators, alumni members and the public to hear from 15 candidates. Lawmakers will vote on representatives for the state’s 5th Congressional District, two at-large seats and the student regent seat this legislative session. 

“The regent position is crucial to the mission of the University and its future,” said Lisa Lewis, president and CEO of the Alumni Association. “This is the one opportunity for the legislators to come and see all the candidates at once.”

Campus administrators questioned candidates about their top issues before the forum was opened to the public. Candidates addressed affordability, diversity and safety as prominent concerns. 

Candidates were also asked how they plan to balance affordability and enrollment with maintaining a quality education.

“To be realistic and empathetic [about tuition] is the first and foremost importance,” said Sara Kettering, an applicant for the student at-large seat and a Masters of Public Health student. 

Candidates also emphasized the importance of diversity in the University’s governing body and student population. 

“[To] foster dialogue among all of those groups of people,” said Janie Mayeron, an applicant for the at-large and 5th District seats and former Minnesota district court judge. “It means being respectable, being accountable and embracing every one of those groups.”

At large-seats candidates were asked whether it is better to contribute state funding to the University‘s administrative needs or low-to-middle class students to address tuition costs. 

“The University has to determine what its priorities are,” said at-large candidate Sandy Wiese, a senior vice president at Data Recognition Corporation in Maple Grove, Minnesota. “I believe that we should look at alternative sources of revenue, including public-private partnerships.”

Some candidates also voiced support for incoming University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel.

“One of the reasons why it makes me excited about applying for becoming a regent is because I think it would be good to have some other women on the board,” said at-large candidate Lynn Abrahamsen, a former CEO of Hennepin Healthcare. 

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said he is looking for candidates who are willing to work well in a group setting. 

“[Selecting candidates] probably the most difficult job as a legislator that I have,” Nornes said. “When they’re all high-quality people, that makes the job really hard.”

Earlier this month, the Regent Candidate Advisory Council forwarded 16 candidates for the state Legislature for consideration in the upcoming regent election. Real estate developer Kelly Doran has since withdrawn from the process. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Sara Kettering’s name. A previous version of this article also misstated Lynn Abrahamsen’s title. She is the former CEO of Hennepin Healthcare.