This March, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed Northern Arizona University (NAU) Student Body President Lauren L’Ecuyer to the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees NAU, University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. The Board allows only one student to join the governing body to help supervise, coordinate, manage and regulate the university system for two years. Now, Lauren is looking forward to continuing that passion by representing more than 180,000 Arizona public university students. We spoke to Lauren about the new role and what it meant to represent the student voice on a system decision-making level.
NCLC: How does it feel to be a Student Body President on your campus and student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents?
Lauren L’Ecuyer: It was an incredible honor to be elected as the Student Body President almost a year ago and I am reminded of what a great opportunity it is each and every day to serve the students of NAU. The tasks I have each day change, and the roles I play in the position range from the manager to the policy writer to the facilitator of conversations. The role has brought me more joy this year than I could have ever imagined it would.
Being appointed to the Board of Regents as the Student Regent is a different experience to be appointed instead of elected. The pressure is just as high, but the process is much different. Having the opportunity to interview with the Governor and meet with the Arizona Senators today, is extremely special. I know the next two years will be full of learning experiences and exciting new opportunities.
NCLC: How did this opportunity with Arizona Board of Regents come to be?
LL: When it came time for NAU to select the Student Regent, I had no intention of putting my name in the pool of applicants, however as the process moved along, I was encouraged by some professors to take the opportunity. I eventually decided that being a Student Regent encompasses what I am passionate about. It is the combination of the things that I enjoy: the people who I am serving and a location that I love.
NCLC: How did your institution’s administration advocate for your new position with the Board?
LL: I had multiple conversations with our administration, and they were always extremely supportive of my decision to apply. Being the Student Body President has given me an opportunity to form relationships with the administration, so naturally, we were able to have these conversations frequently. My professors were the ones who really encouraged me to apply since they knew my personality and interests.
NCLC: How do you plan to represent state university students in this role?
LL: I have a year as a non-voting member, and I plan to use that time to educate myself on the Board, the issues at hand, and the scope of the work to be done. I have been fortunate enough to develop a small understanding of what the Board does and see them at work in general sessions, but I know there’s much more detail and specific work to learn. I can come in with a bunch of solutions, but I am reliant on the relationship building with the students at each campus and the discussions we can foster on campus.
NCLC: How will student voices be heard through your new position and how do you plan to present their concerns to the Board?
LL: I plan to develop a way for students to immediately voice concerns, comments or questions with student regents. I am planning trips to each of the Universities to work with the student governments on top priorities and issues that are occurring at their campuses and working to on a plan to educate all stakeholders on the reasoning for decisions at the University and the Board level. I think miscommunication often stems from a lack of good information, and I hope to be the person that bridges that gap for all stakeholders.
NCLC: What issues are most concerning to students within Arizona’s university system?
LL: I would say students are concerned about the rising rate of tuition and fees. Unfortunately, this is a commonality in all states, not just Arizona. We’ve seen significant cuts each year to the funding of our Universities by the legislature. I think we will see this conversation continue and develop over time, and hopefully, we can come to a creative solution for how to keep both the state and public higher education working.
NCLC: What tips do you have for other student leaders interested in working at the state level of higher ed?
LL: I would encourage student leaders to get involved and listen as much as possible. Working with the student government gave me a look into what the Arizona Board of Regents does, and developed my passion for the work they do. I did my homework, learned about the issues at hand, about the complexities of the issues they are dealing with, and listened. Listening to the cues and the things that these incredibly brilliant people are discussing is helpful to find the context.
NCLC: What piece of advice would you give to aspiring Student Body Presidents?
LL: I would advise aspiring Student Body Presidents to create a vision, whether that be how you want your office to run, what services you want to provide, or a campus-wide change you want to implement. See that vision, see it clearly, and dedicate yourself in full to achieving it.
I would also advise you to throw inhibitions aside when running, when developing this vision, and when acting as the President. There is no time for nervousness, no time for fear of the future, no time for slacking. Instead, trade that fear of the unknown for the adrenaline of what your vision could look like in real life, and trade the procrastination gene you might have a go-getter attitude!