Thursday and Friday, July 15-16, marked this year’s first Utah Board of Education meeting with new student representatives: Tanner Marcum and Valirie Serawop.
The meetings consisted of revisions, budgets guidelines, finance reviews and committee updates.
The specific responsibilities of the Utah State Board of Education includes managing the Utah System of Higher Education, selecting and evaluating institutional presidents, submitting budget requests to the legislature, reviewing programs, setting policy and approving institutional missions.
The board consists of 18 members, all approved and appointed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox. There are two student board members, who serve a one-year term, and 16 other members who serve 6-year staggered terms.
As for this years’ student board members, Marcum, a graduate student at Utah State University, represented students at degree-granting institutions while Serawop represented students at technical colleges in Utah.
These student representatives were selected based on Cox’s nomination and confirmation from the Senate Education Committee.
Marcum, a lover of reading, hiking, running and anything that involves time with family, is currently working towards his Master of Business Administration as well as a Master of Human Resources student at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at USU.
He has held many leadership roles at a variety of locations including Brigham Young University-Idaho, the United States federal government and Home Care Pulse.
Serawop, is involved with the ambassador and diversity groups, is the 2021 UBTech Student of the Year, and is a part of SkillsUSA, a silver medalist in prepared speech.
She also has a passion for education and hopes to eventually work in administration in Uintah Basin at one of the local institutions.
Student Affairs Vice President, James Morales, voiced the importance of having these current students be a part of the board because they can truly understand the current needs of students.
“What matters most is that these student representatives are vocal and willing to be fully engaged in helping to educate the board,” Morales said.
Marcum agreed and hopes that students can trust him and know that he will work hard to be that voice for them, especially since he understands how critical his position on the board is.
“Each of the other board members have relevant educational and professional experiences that allow them to lead the USHE successfully,” he said, “But none of them are current students and integrated in with students and student life. That’s where the voice and perspective of a student representative is key.”
The second half of meetings on Friday at Utah State University, started off with Marcum’s and Serawop’s swearing in as representatives, followed by building information, potential policy revisions and an update from each committee.
They also discussed higher education statistics. The board said, in the next five years, the number of high school graduates are expected to decline. They also said 40% of women are less likely to attend post secondary education than men and that there is a decline in college enrollment among ethnic students, one example being a 14.6% drop in college enrollment for Native Americans just during the pandemic.
Randy Shumway, CEO of Cicero Group, shared these statistics to point out that they can do a better job of encouraging education and offering scholarships to those who have some college credit as an incentive to go back and get their degree.
Board member Lisa Michele Church, from the Committee of Student Affairs, shared that some of their other strategic objectives are to recognize the oncoming mental health challenges that students at all the Utah institutions are still facing and to pursue simplifying the admissions process, although the admissions officers are currently pushing against it.
The meeting also had a focus on ensuring that all students, even adult learners or those living in rural areas, are being accounted for.
“Diversity means a lot of things and I want you to understand that we are looking at underrepresented students, specifically in Utah,” Church said. “Those people who, for whatever reason, are not college-going right now and could be.”
Morales wanted students, at USU specifically, to know that even though they may not be a student representative attending these meetings, they can still ensure their own voice is heard. He said the most effective way students can share their ideas or thoughts is by submitting comments through a USUSA mechanism called My Voice.
This can be located through the MyUSU portal. The comments will be sent directly to the USUSA officers who can pass it along to the representatives.
And although Marcum is just starting his year term, he said he is ready for this new role as the student representative.
“I’m most excited to get to know students, listen to their concerns, their successes, their ideas and their perspectives,” he stated, “I’m excited for the challenges ahead to ensure all students have a voice, advocate, peer and friend on the board dedicated to ensuring their overall success.”