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State higher education committees recommend eight candidates for regent elections

Four of the 12 Board of Regents seats at the University of Minnesota are up for election this year.
Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Friday, June 13, 2020. (Minnesota Daily / Jasmin Kemp)
Image by Jasmin Kemp
Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Friday, June 13, 2020. (Minnesota Daily / Jasmin Kemp)

The joint House and Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee at the Minnesota Legislature met virtually Tuesday to interview and recommend their picks for the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents election.

The committee considered choices initially recommended by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council. The committee recommended two finalists from each of the 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th Congressional Districts. The candidates include four women and two people of color, one of whom could be the first Native American regent to serve on the board.

Brandon Alkire, running in the 4th Congressional District, said he wants to be a University regent to help underrepresented communities strengthen their voices and help the University recruit and maintain diverse students.

“I believe that we need this voice on the board to help diversify current voices,” he said during the meeting Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the first Native American who is going to be elected,” Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, said. This is an important moment for reflection because the University sits on Native American land, he said.

Running opposite of Alkire is Karen Schanfied. She said her appreciation for higher education and teaching caused her to run.

“I just really want to help a place I care about tremendously,” she said.

Regent Michael Hsu, the 6th Congressional District board member, is the only member considered for reelection. He wants to continue work on making standardized test scores optional when applying to the University and keeping tuition and costs low for students.

“We need to make sure the University is serving the needs of public Minnesota, especially the kids,” Hsu said.

This is the last of a six-year term for Regents Richard Beeson and Thomas Anderson. They did not run for re-election this term. Regent Randy Simonson began to run for reelection before withdrawing from the race, which moderator Jim du Bois announced at the regent candidate forum in late January.

Noor used the interview portion of Tuesday night’s meeting to ensure each candidate is prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion.

“It’s something that many institutions struggle with,” he said. “We have to support diversifying the staff, ensuring that we have a diverse student body and diversity of thought.”

The House and Senate will meet in joint convention later this month to elect regents.

The eight recommended candidates are Val Aarsvold and Ruth Johnson for the 1st Congressional District; Brandon Alkire and Karen Schanfield for the 4th Congressional District; Michael Hsu and Kodi Verhalen for the 6th Congressional District; and Doug Huebsch and Michael Yost for the 7th Congressional District.

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