U delegate voices students’ concerns

Anna Weggel

When most students come to the University, they say they are excited about meeting new people, taking interesting classes and newfound freedom.

But American studies, economics and political science sophomore Nathan Wanderman said he was excited about meetings.

“I really like meetings – I like the bureaucratic process, as nerdy as that sounds,” he said. “It’s fun to hear the deliberative process.”

In high school, Wanderman was a student representative on his town’s school board, and now, he serves as a student representative to the Board of Regents.

“It’s the same but bigger here,” he said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve done so far.”

Wanderman serves with six other student representatives and has had the position since May.

The board is the governing body of the University. It is made up of 12 regents who volunteer to serve six-year terms. The Legislature appoints the regents.

The role of student representatives is to advise regents on issues important to the student body, such as tuition increases.

Although Wanderman said budget issues are “fairly inflexible,” he said regents generally respond favorably to the student representatives’ lobbying.

“They’re really willing to listen to the students,” he said. “They want to make (the University) a better place.”

Wanderman said the student representatives give testimonials during monthly Board of Regents meetings and often speak with regents behind closed doors.

For example, Wanderman said, the regents know increasing tuition is a big problem. But he said they don’t understand it results in a suffering graduation rate and has a direct impact on the quality of students’ time.

“They don’t know this; they’re not sitting through class,” he said. “A lot of what we say is visibly eye-opening (to them).”

Wanderman said the key is getting individual regents passionate about a specific issue.

“You have to pick your battles,” he said. “So long as you are judicious and intellectual about the battles you choose to fight, you will feel like you are a beneficial representative.”

Ann Cieslak, Board of Regents executive director and corporate secretary, said student representatives serve an important role.

“The board values greatly having student representatives, because they bring the student voice and student perspective to issues that the board considers,” she said.

Cieslak said that because the regents are volunteers, they are only at the University part of the time. She said this is why it is beneficial to hear from students who live on campus, work with professors and attend classes.

“To have (student) perspective on what the University faces and how money is spent is very helpful to decision making,” she said.

Along with the position, Wanderman serves in executive roles on the Student Senate and the Minnesota Student Association.

MSA President Tom Zearley said Wanderman’s ambition impresses him.

“He’s very motivated and would like to change things that aren’t right here,” he said. “It was strange to us, because it was the first time we’ve ever seen someone so young be so passionate about it so soon.”

Fellow MSA Forum member Aaron Solem said Wanderman is very outspoken and represents students well at board meetings.

“He can articulate the students’ desires and students’ needs to the regents,” Solem said.

Solem said he and Wanderman watch football together every Sunday and Wanderman is a “pretty normal kid outside of student government.”

Hoping to become a public prosecutor, Wanderman said, he plans on graduating from the University and attending law school.

“Money doesn’t get my wheels turning,” he said. “I’m working towards a progressive, positive future for society.”