UMN regent candidates preview upcoming election process

Candidates met with current and former regents to discuss the regent selection process and University’s legislative priorities Wednesday.

Members of the Board of Regents converse during their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 5, where they discussed the finalists for the next presidential of the University.

Image by Jerusa Nyakundi

Members of the Board of Regents converse during their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 5, where they discussed the finalists for the next presidential of the University.

by Erin Wilson

Current and former regents had a chance to give advice to candidates for the University of Minnesota Board of Regents’ four open seats at the state Capitol Wednesday. 

Regent David McMillan, Regent Richard Beeson and Regent Emeritus Thomas Devine detailed the University’s legislative agenda and offered candidates advice for surviving the election process. This legislative session, lawmakers will vote on candidates for the board’s 5th Congressional District seat, two at-large seats and the student regent seat. 

Chair of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council Orientation Committee Jim Erickson organized the event. He said regents play an important role at the Capitol and need to be familiar with the University’s legislative priorities. 

“In my mind, you can be the very best lobbyists for the University of Minnesota,” Erickson said to candidates in the meeting.

Candidates for the student at-large seat present were Minnesota Student Association Chief of Staff James Farnsworth, University law student Joshua Preston and graduate student in the School of Public Health Sara Kettering.

Farnsworth said new executive leadership under University President-elect Joan Gabel will shape how new regents approach the position. He said Gabel’s election helped prompt him to apply. 

“It’s a cornerstone moment for the University, with a new president, up to four new regents and a new provost … so I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to work with new leadership when determining mission, when determining strategic advancement of the institution,” Farnsworth said. 

Regents also gave candidates advice about how to interact with lawmakers during the election process. McMillan said candidates need to be able to present the University’s position clearly and effectively to the Legislature. 

“Every train goes through the U’s roundhouse,” McMillan said. “Get a little sense of how invested your legislator is in the University.” 

Beeson advised candidates that student and congressional district seats still represent the entire state. 

“You’re not representing the student, you were elected as a student, but frankly the legislators want your broad view,” he said. “And you may go in talking about student issues, frankly they want you addressing all the stakeholders.” 

After orientation, Erickson presented the candidates to the House higher education committee, where they each gave a one minute synopsis of their motivation for applying. 

“The University touches on the lives of every Minnesotan in one way or another… I want the U of M to be the very best it can be,” said at-large candidate Kao Ly Ilean Her during her presentation. 

5th Congressional District candidate Janie Mayeron said one of the hardest parts of the process is not having the same knowledge as incumbent candidates. 

“The initial [challenge] will be always to get up to speed,” she said. “You don’t want to remake the wheel, you want to understand what’s the history.”