An at-large and student at-large seat on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents will open up next legislative session, making room for several students to apply.
Students with past University government experience applied for both at-large seats, including Minnesota Student Association Chief of Staff James Farnsworth and former student representative to the board Joshua Preston. Both said they hope to bring a new student voice to the board at an important transition period for University leadership.
“[I will] always have a student-centric angle and lens in my work on the board and the questions I’m asking and always make sure I’m being really in tune and really responsive to what’s in front of the board that’s important to students,” Farnsworth said.
Per Board of Regents policy, one spot on the board is required to be filled by a current University of Minnesota student. This student-at-large position serves to increase active student representation and involvement, and provides a current student with a vote in University matters. The Minnesota Legislature elects this and all other Board of Regents seats. University graduate Regent Abdul Omari currently fills the position and has reapplied for it ahead of the session.
Farnsworth said some of the most pressing upcoming issues facing the Board of Regents include nonresident tuition hikes, renaming buildings on campus and working with the new president and provost.
“The role of a regent is to be a partner in those conversations as well as ask challenging questions and make sure that, the president and provost, that the board is working in conjunction with them on a mission, on a vision in a strategic way.”
Currently a University law student, Preston previously served as a student representative to the Board of Regents and ran to represent Minnesota House District 60B in the August primary election. He said working with the new University president will be one of the biggest focuses for the board.
“The board is going to have to develop a working relationship with the next president of the University and have the important conversation of, 'Where do we want the University to be in ten years?'” Preston said.
Regent Richard Beeson said student regents bring an important perspective to the board.
"They bring the direct experience of being ... a primary stakeholder," he said. "I think that's really important because for the rest of us, we've been out of college for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, so it is a good reality check."
Regent Steve Sviggum said the board should not necessarily reserve a seat for students, but rather the most qualified candidate. He said he doesn’t expect the Legislature to elect a student to the at-large position.
“I would very much doubt that they’re going to elect two students,” he said.
All student at-large applicants have demonstrated familiarity with the University and a desire to be a part of the student community, said Regent Darrin Rosha.
“Having that intent, that desire and recognition that public service of this variety can have an impact on people's lives, I think that’s important.”
According to a tweet by MPR reporter Brian Bakst, 10 University students submitted applications for both the student at-large and at-large positions. They are Andrew Brichacek, Mary Franz, Susan Grafstrom, Tommy Keller, Christina Larson, Sam Rosemark, Jorden Johnson, Mike Kenyanya, James Farnsworth and Joshua Preston.
The Regent Advisory Council will review applications and interview candidates in January before sending their recommendations to the Legislature.