One meaningful way your student can get very heavily involved in the life of Wake Forest is to be its student Trustee. The student Trustee attends meetings of the Wake Forest Board of Trustees, the University’s governing body, and provides valuable insight and perspective on student life and student concerns. It is a tremendous honor to represent the school and it comes with many responsibilities as well.
Why did you want to be the Student Trustee?
When I was a student, I was fortunate enough to have a few really great opportunities for campus leadership and involvement as an underclassman. I knew I wanted to keep that ball rolling by growing and expanding my involvement as a junior and senior. The great thing about Wake Forest is that there are so many opportunities for such involvement around campus. During the spring of my junior year, I sat down and really tried to evaluate what my previous experience had prepared me for, and which roles I felt most passionately about pursuing. For me, the best fit and most interesting role seemed to be Student Trustee. I knew that I enjoyed interfacing with alumni and other campus supporters as well as members of the faculty, staff and administration, and I was passionate about representing the student perspective on campus issues. I was looking for the right fit for service to Wake Forest, and for me, Student Trustee was it.
What does the Student Trustee really *do*?
The Student Trustee’s most important role is to represent the student voice to the Board of Trustees. In order to do this most effectively, Student Trustees interact with many members of the campus community listening to what is going well and what might be causing students concern. The Student Trustee then takes the ideas and feedback from students to the Board. The Student Trustee is a full voting member of the Board and serves on the Board’s Student Life Committee where they share insight into the topics the committee is covering at that time. Additionally, Student Trustees help to communicate announcements and information from the Board when they are released at various points in the year. There are four board meetings each year, but the work done by the Student Trustee goes much farther. In order to gain as comprehensive a perspective as possible, Student Trustees spend a great deal of time interacting with as many people as possible on campus. The Student Trustee joins committees, councils and project/event teams with other student leaders such as the SG President and Cabinet, presidents of Greek organizations and campus groups. This involvement allows a greater understanding of what is happening on campus and a more complete idea of how students are feeling about particular issues.
What sorts of qualities do you think are required of the Student Trustee?
While the specific issues and topics various Student Trustees address many change year-to-year, there are key characteristics that I think every Student Trustee should possess. First a foremost, a Student Trustee must love Wake Forest. This is a big responsibility and a commitment to serve the school in one of the highest leadership positions available to students. One will not enjoy the experience or be effective if only viewing this role as something for a resume. Student Trustees must also be committed to representing students. This is truly a commitment and requires resolution to reach out to as many campus constituencies as possible as frequently as possible, constantly growing and expanding your campus network. It is also a promise to know when and how to separate your own opinion from that of your peers in the instances when those may differ. Finally, the Student Trustee must be able to maintain confidentiality. Most obviously, there are time when items and issues discussed at Board meetings must be kept confidential. However, confidentiality also comes into play when discussing issues with peers. Students should know that when they come to you with an idea, issue or concern that you will hold that conversation in confidence.
Looking back, how was your experience?
I was so fortunate to hold this role. I can’t describe what a fantastic experience I had. It can be challenging to field your peers’ concerns or criticisms and to keep information you have confidential, and it is certainly a responsibility, but boy is it worth it. I know that the friends and mentors I gained in my year as Student Trustee and the fantastic lessons I learned about leading an organization, decision making, and what it means to be a good volunteer will serve me well into the future. I am constantly realizing what an impactful and important experience for this was for me, and I don’t take my time in the role for granted.
What advice do you have for students applying for the position?
Start your application early and allow plenty of time for recommendations! You will be far too stressed if you put it off. Talk to current or past Student Trustees if possible; they can be a great resource to help you better understand the application process and the role. Finally, enjoy the process. Be thoughtful about what experiences you have that have prepared you for the role, and most importantly, be enthusiastic and passionate and have fun with the process!
Anything else you’d want parents to know?
Parents—please encourage your students to apply if they are interested. From completing the paper application to the various rounds of interviews, the whole application experience is great preparation for other “real world” situations. If your student does apply, know the application process is a long, and sometimes nerve-wracking, one. Your students begin preparing their applications now, but the announcement of the next Student Trustee will not be made until April. Be supportive and encouraging. Also understand that it is a highly competitive position. If your student is not chosen, please help encourage them to look into the other great outlets for involvement and leadership. There are tons! This was an absolutely wonderful experience for me, and I feel so fortunate to have been selected to hold the role. Should your student be chosen, look forward to the fantastic year of service, growth and learning that awaits them.
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