Regent Candidate Advisory Council advances 25 applicants to interview stage

The applicants for open seats on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents include seven students.

The University's Board of Regents convene on Friday, Sep. 14 at McNamara Alumni Center.

Jack Rodgers

The University's Board of Regents convene on Friday, Sep. 14 at McNamara Alumni Center.

Tiffany Bui and Lew Blank

A citizen advisory council selected 25 applicants — including seven students — as candidates to fill vacancies on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.

Four regent seats will be vacated this next legislative session, including two statewide at-large seats, one student at-large seat and one seat representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, according to Thursday press release.

The selected applicants will be advanced to the interview process in January. After the interviews, the Regent Candidate Advisory Council will recommend two to four candidates for each seat to the Minnesota State Legislature.

RCAC doesn’t look for any specific criteria in selecting candidates, but previous governance experience could elevate their application, said Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, RCAC member and former chair of the higher education committee. 

“You make a judgement on who you think would be the best, stand-out candidate at this point, knowing that the Legislature makes the final decision after this whole process,” Nornes said. 

The pool of applicants this year was notably a diverse mix, he said. 

“There’s a pretty common understanding that we really ought to, as close as we can, reflect not just the University, but also maybe the state. It’s a conscious thing, but this is not necessarily the only that we consider,” Nornes said. 

Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said he didn’t think RCAC’s decision would make a difference in the Legislature’s selection process. In 2017, Regent Steve Sviggum was elected by the Legislature to the board despite not receiving a recommendation from RCAC.

“We’ve ignored the recommendations of the council the last few selection cycles, so [the factors influencing RCAC’s decision] would be a question that really becomes immaterial to the process,” Pelowski said.

Experienced University government leaders Joshua Preston and James Farnsworth were among the list of student candidates. Preston is the former student chair to the board and Farnsworth is chief of staff for the Minnesota Student Association. 

Other Twin Cities student interviewees include Thomas Keller, an applied economics research assistant at the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, and Sara Kettering, a graduate student at the School of Public Health. No students were selected for an interview for a statewide at-large position. 

Applicants from the wider University system include Andrew Brichacek, president of the Morris Campus Student Association, Mike Kenyanya, president of the University of Minnesota-Duluth Student Association, and Mary Franz, chief of staff of UMDSA.