Legislature to select four new regents from finalists

by Elena Rozwadowski

Every two years, four new members are elected to the University’s Board of Regents.

This year, the open seats include one from the 5th U.S. Congressional District, two at-large positions and one spot for a University student.

Five months, one deadline extension and 145 applications after opening the position, the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC) has selected 11 finalists for the open positions.

The governor and the Legislature choose the regents from the final applicants selected by the RCAC. Once elected, the new regents serve on the 12-member board for six years.

Regents monitor the University and approve policies, plans, annual budgets and educational programs, according to the candidate advisory council Web site.

The RCAC began its search for the new regents in August. The original deadline was Nov. 8 but was pushed back to Dec. 1 to generate more applications, said RCAC Chair Bob Vanasek.

Despite the initial numbers, Vanasek said the council received more applications this year than he has ever seen.

The council did a combination of newspaper advertising and recruiting. Vanasek said the council also met with the Minnesota Student Association to help promote the student regent position.

The positions are unpaid, and the candidates’ submissions look like any other job application, including educational background, work experience and essay questions.

Although there are no specific background requirements to become a regent, Vanasek said the council looks for quality candidates with different backgrounds.

“We do consciously try to get diversity on the board,” Vanasek said. This includes gender, education, work experience and race, he said.

The selection process

Once the applications are submitted, the 24-member advisory council has access to them so that each one can be reviewed. The council meets soon after the deadline to review the applications again and select candidates to be interviewed.

The council interviewed 20 applicants between Jan. 8-10. The council then made its final selections to submit to Governor Tim Pawlenty.

By Feb. 15, Pawlenty will submit four nominees to a 20-member joint House and Senate committee. Once the committee approves these nominees, a joint convention of the Legislature will vote on the candidates.

This year, Vanasek said the RCAC had a tough time choosing finalists because all of the applicants were more than qualified, especially the students.

The council chose three finalists for the student seat.

“Our tendency has been usually to go with two,” Vanasek said. “But the quality of the student applications was such that we should have at least a third one.

“As far as these three students are concerned, the governor can’t go wrong,” he said.

Students are also elected to six-year terms. The requirement is that they be enrolled at the University on any of its campuses at the time of the election.

Vanasek said the council does not necessarily look at experience for student candidates, but more for people who can “hold their own” in discussions with the regents.

Making the commitment

The RCAC also makes sure students can make the full six-year commitment, Vanasek said.

“When the Legislature set aside one position for a student, they did say it was going to be for the same six-year term,” he said. “My guess is that part of the legislative intent was that this is supposed to be considered a full-fledged regent.”

In the applications, the students said they would be able to make the commitment.

Law students Stephen Barrows and Venora Hung said that although they plan to graduate before their term is up, they will stay in Minnesota and would therefore be able to serve the full term.

University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate student Maureen Cisneros said she plans to make the board her priority in planning her schedule in the future.

Some of the student applicants have had experience with the Board of Regents as student representatives.

According to the Board of Regents Policy, seven students are selected to serve a one-year term as representatives. Four are from the Twin Cities campus and three represent each of the other University campuses.

Selected by the official student legislative bodies on each campus, the representatives attend meetings and participate in board committees and other functions, according to the Board of Regents Web site.

Although Hung is the only finalist who has served as a student representative, others applied for the full regent position.

“Advocates for the students”

Economics, American studies and political science senior Nathan Wanderman, chair of the student representatives, said he applied to be a regent because they have more power.

“You get a vote as a student regent,” Wanderman said. “Student reps are there mostly as advocates for the students.”

Wanderman was interviewed but not selected as a finalist.

At the time of the original Nov. 8 deadline, there were only two student applicants. But as of Dec. 1, Wanderman said there were more than 30.

“I don’t think it’s so much a lack of interest amongst the students,” he said. The position was not advertised as aggressively until the deadline was pushed back, he said, so students may not have even known about the position.

“Plus, most people tend to procrastinate things until the last moment,” he said.

Most students don’t even know what the regents do, he said, so many of them probably don’t understand what the position is all about.

“The student regent position is by far the most accessible position,” Wanderman said. Most regents have had a lot of experience in business or in politics before applying for a place on the board.

“It’s a pretty prestigious position to get,” he said. “It’s really a fantastic opportunity to stay involved in the University of Minnesota and to work on making this place better, if you want to get your hands dirty.”