Representatives provide student voice to Board of Regents

Kristin Gustafson

When the Board of Regents debates spending millions of dollars on a new building or evaluates the University’s Y2K preparedness, students are represented.
Headed by their chairwoman, Heidi Frederickson, and two vice chairpersons, Sean Dillon and Kristen Berning, seven students represent all five University campuses on the board.
Representatives are selected from each of the Morris, Duluth, Crookston and St. Paul campuses in addition to one representative from the Graduate School and two representatives from the Minneapolis campus.
Increasing student input is a board priority, said regent chairwoman, Patricia Spence.
Though the regents’ student representatives serve in an advisory-only capacity and do not vote, they have access to the University’s decision-makers in formal and informal ways.
Students formally work with regents at monthly breakfast meetings, at committee meetings and through Frederickson’s presentation at the full board meetings, Spence said.
Informally, regents and students connect during events like Spence’s Wednesday visit to the University-Morris campus.
Frederickson, Spence and Ann Cieslak, the regents’ interim executive director and corporate secretary, met Wednesday with more than 30 students for a round-table discussion addressing student concerns.
“We need to do a lot more of that on all of the campuses,” Spence said.
Cieslak noted that “sometimes informal communication is more important than formal.”
Frederickson, a junior political science major at Morris, serves as the student representatives’ chairwoman. Last year, she served as one of the group’s vice chairpersons.
“Bringing the student voice to the regents and the president so they are aware of the voices of all the students” is what she likes best, Frederickson said.
Spence said Frederickson brings intelligence, honesty, care and passion to the board. “She’s not afraid to speak her mind,” she added.
Kristen Berning, a St. Paul campus graduate student in agricultural education and one of two current vice chairpersons, also offers one year of prior experience.
Because of their previous experience, Frederickson and Berning can serve as mentors for newer student representatives, Cieslak said.
Sean Dillon, a senior pre-law student at Duluth, was selected to his position by Duluth’s student association president, Eddie Kalombo. At the student representatives’ June retreat, Dillon was voted vice chairman.
“I wanted to find out how it worked,” Dillon said of the regent process. “It’s been a good opportunity for me to get involved.”
Kalombo said that, in the past several years, Twin Cities campus issues have come first and other campuses’ concerns have had to wait.
Duluth students now need to let regents know of their campus’ need for a hockey arena and music performance laboratory, Kalombo said.
Dillon’s quiet demeanor, analytical style and thoughtful responses to important issues made him “perfect for the job,” Kalombo said.
Student representatives have an immediate voice on issues, especially on the committees, Dillon said.
“I encourage the students to use their student reps as a way to have their voice heard by the board,” Spence said.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.