Fresh influx of students to represent peers to regents

by Kristin Gustafson

The University Board of Regents will face fresh input from four new students in the year ahead after the student representatives to the board changed hands.
Each year new representatives are selected to represent University student constituencies.
“We are going to have a great mix of people who know how things work and then new people who will come in with new questions and new ideas,” said Heidi Frederickson, the current chairwoman of the group.
As regents met for committee meetings earlier this month, they got a dose of the depth of leadership and cross-cultural perspective the new representatives might offer.
These four new members will be joined by three veterans to make up the team of volunteers selected to represent the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Crookston, Morris and Duluth campuses, graduate students and student government. The group will spend the next year studying board issues, participating in committee meetings and attending board functions.
But they are not allowed to vote. Instead, students make themselves heard via suggestions at committee meetings and other contact with board members. Several said they want to improve communication and increase student input during their one-year term.
Lakeesha Ransom, a Ph.D. student of human resource development with experience as a United Nations’ representative, said she hoped to use her skills to reach out to all students.
And, in return, she wants to represent the ideas and concerns people have to help make better policy, she said. Ransom’s international experience taught her to relate to people from all walks of life, “whether it is Kenyan, French, British or Panamanian … as well as Brainerd or Duluth,” she said.
For Aaron Schultz, an agriculture and food systems management senior from Crookston, board representation was a step up from student government. “I wanted to expand … to be more involved with the whole campus rather than just Crookston.”
Though the Minnesota Student Association’s approval for its two nominees, Venora M. Hung and Irene Wen Yen Kao, was expected later this month, their positions were tentative at the time of this month’s meetings.
Kao, an English and psychology senior, brings to the group three years of student government experience as well as sorority leadership.
She said she is excited to learn how regents make decisions and wants the students to work together. “(We) have a lot of power and can make quite an impact.”
Hung, a MIS and finance senior, said her experience with residential student concerns led her to consider the regent position. As a community adviser, Hung has helped students with social, academic and personal issues.
Student board representation “brings the leadership to a different level,” Hung said. Hung added her experience as a Chinese-American and her years of international travel helps her to think outside of the box.
“The outsider’s view, I think, helps a lot,” Hung said.
Returning members include the student representatives’ chairwoman Frederickson, a political science junior from Morris, and vice chairwoman Kristen Berning, a human resource development second-year graduate student from St. Paul. Frederickson and Berning have served two years as representatives. Mike Miller, a marketing senior from Duluth who joined the group in January, is returning for another year.
Top issues addressed by this year’s student representatives were diversity training for faculty, staff and students; coordinate campus issues; and parking and transportation.
One significant change this year was the group’s decision to make semi-annual presentations rather than annual. “As far as I know, that’s the first time that’s been done,” said Frederickson, who made the change.
“I feel they’ve been much more vocal and very prepared,” Regent Chairwoman Patricia Spence said of the outgoing group of students. “I’m always really impressed with what they bring to the table.”
Frederickson and Berning said they looked forward to fresh perspectives and new group dynamics. “It’s very clear we want to be a very cohesive team,” Berning said of the new group. New leadership will be selected by the group next month.
“We are really going to strive to find out what are the issues with students,” she said of one of the group’s goals for the year ahead. Berning’s longevity with the board has proved rewarding because she can watch the board attain goals set during past years, she said. “It’s hard to get everything done in one year,” Berning said.
Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected].