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Word of the Student Trustee

Gideon Burdick, student trustee

Since July of last year I’ve had the honor of serving as the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees. I’ve represented the student voice at the full Board meetings (one in October and one in February) in addition to serving on a variety of ad-hoc committees of the Board. Serving has been an eye opening experience and I’ve been asked to share some of those by the Echo. I sit on the Student Life Committee of the Board and have sat in on the Investment Committees meetings, usually held the day before the full board meeting and perhaps most importantly have served on 3 ad-hoc committees that meet outside of the regular board meetings. I share what I’ve worked on, and will continue to work on, not only to invite discussion but also in hopes that the future student trustee, staff and faculty representative will work together to present a common agenda and better articulate the concerns and needs of the campus.

When I first joined the Board I inherited Paige Heron’s (’09) position on the presidential review committee. For me, this was an intimidating process. I was in a room with 2 other representatives from the college, two Board members and the Chair of the Board. And Me. Believe it or not, I’m quite in a setting when I don’t feel comfortable or know how my voice is going to be received and in these initial meetings I have to say that I didn’t say much. However there are two individuals who consciously took the time to make sure that I said something. Who asked for and valued my opinion. It was interesting to get accustomed to a situation you inherit (from the former student trustee) in which your voice by default is important. I had done nothing except show up and these people valued my opinion. I’ve found this to be a common theme, in that my voice as a student from campus was welcome and encouraged, especially during the Presidential Review Process Committee.

The committee was charged with developing a formal process in which future presidential reviews will occur annually (which currently happens) in addition to a more comprehensive review every three years. Our work is still pending action by the Board but I’m pleased with what we did and I have hope that ways of sharing praise and concern will have a constructive and established process in the future.

Finally, I’ve been bringing ideas that I’ve heard on campus to Board members, in addition to pushing for a more socially responsible investment policy. There is a long way to go on this, and with an endowment of 45 million we’re seen as relatively small potatoes. But setting an example, and practicing what we preach on campus at a Board level seems like the least we should do. I’m optimistic that by beginning the conversation future representatives from campus will be able to further the needs and desires of the campus, just as I was able to build on what others had done before me.

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