For the first time since February, the University of Missouri System has a student representative to the UM System Board of Curators.
The board, which consists of nine voting curators, had two curator vacancies and the student representative vacancy for over five months months, until Gov. Eric Greitens announced his appointments on Monday.
The new student representative will be, pending approval, Courtney Lauer, an MU Law School graduate who is currently working toward an advanced law certification this fall.
Lauer fills a position that was previously occupied by Patrick Graham, a School of Music student who will be continuing his senior year this fall.
Lauer said she has been swamped with media requests in the past couple of days, so she sent a prepared statement.
“I am very grateful and humbled to receive this appointment,” Lauer said in the emailed statement. “The University of Missouri System has a distinguished past, and I am thrilled to be able to contribute to its bright future. I look forward to serving all students of the university system. I’m excited to get to work!”
Lauer won’t be a voting member of the board by nature of the student representative position, but Graham said that didn’t inhibit his abilities to serve in the capacity.
“Most of what the board publicly votes on is very non-controversial,” Graham said in an email. “The debate and discussion happens before the vote, both in public and private sessions. I never felt like my opinion was listened to less because I didn't have a vote to cast. On the contrary, I felt like many curators intentionally sought my opinion since I was the only student at the table.
Pending Missouri Senate approval, Lauer will be the only student at the table at the board’s next meeting in September on the UM-Kansas City campus. While there, and throughout her term as student representative, Lauer will act as the voice of the over 77,000 students who make up the four campuses, MU Extension and the rest of the UM System.
Lauer’s term is slated to end in January 2018, which is when Graham’s term was supposed to end. Graham was nominated by former Gov. Jay Nixon, with his term scheduled to start January 2016, but he didn’t officially serve on the board until June 2016 because the Missouri Senate did not confirm Nixon’s nomination. As a recess appointment, he was then, in February, not renominated by Greitens.
Thus, Lauer will finish out the term designated for an MU student. The position rotates among campuses, with the next student scheduled to be from the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus.
Steven Chaffin, executive director of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a student lobbying group that represents student interests at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, said he has gotten to know Lauer recently.
“I have had the pleasure to work with her over the last couple of months, during which her appointment seemed likely but was not yet confirmed,” Chaffin said in an email. “In my brief period of working with Courtney, she has always exuded the greatest sense of professionalism, self-confidence, and open-mindedness.”
Chaffin said he has worked with Lauer on the Intercampus Student Council, which is made up of student leaders from all four campuses. It mainly consists of the student government presidents and vice presidents.
“I have no doubt she will be able to provide effective leadership to a group consisting of our university’s top student leaders,” Chaffin said of the ISC in the email. “Moreover, I cannot think of anyone who will more readily earn the respect of her fellow curators, providing students with an advocate in board meetings who can effect change.”
From February till July 31, Chaffin served as the interim chair of the ISC, but Lauer will now serve as the chair, a position that comes with being the student representative to the board, according to ISC bylaws.
“It is entirely up to Courtney what strategy she employs to engage with students,” Chaffin said in the email.
During his term, Graham made visits to the UM campuses.
“I thought of myself in many ways as an ambassador – I frequently spoke for students when interacting with administration and would speak on behalf of administration when students had questions or concerns,” Graham said in the email.
According to Lauer’s LinkedIn page, she received a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Columbia College in 2011, where she was Student Government Association president for a year. She received a Juris Doctor degree from MU in 2017 and is currently working toward a Master of Law in dispute resolution. On her page, she lists being a student representative for another organization, the BARBRI Group. According to its website, “The BARBRI Group leadership team is dedicated to providing comprehensive support to life-long learners – young students and seasoned professionals, alike – on a global scale.”
Like Chaffin, Graham said he believes Lauer will be a good fit for the position.
“I think she will do a fantastic job as our student representative,” Graham said in the email. “She is passionate about higher [education], is politically savvy, and has experience working in the political and legal spheres. Governor Greitens made an excellent choice in nominating Courtney – it's just a few months later than we all would have liked!”
Lauer has served in multiple intern positions for various people in the Missouri government, such as Judge Karen King Mitchell, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and Chief Justice Mary Russell, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Lauer has a background in litigation and lobbying. Chaffin said Lauer will work with ASUM.
“Ideally [ASUM and the student representative] work in tandem,” Chaffin said.
Chaffin said the student representative focuses on the UM System, while ASUM concentrates its efforts in Jefferson City.
“So as we encounter issues and devise our strategy, undoubtedly we will want to keep Courtney involved in this process,” Chaffin said in the email. “We are currently working on mental health issues, sexual assault prevention, and college affordability, and there is certainly a role for the UM System leadership in this regard. So once Courtney settles into her role, those conversations will need to be had.”
Once students return to campus for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 21, Lauer will have the opportunity to meet with students and advocate for them.
To prevent future lengthy vacancies of the student representative position, Chaffin said that ASUM will need students to be more involved.
“Simply encouraging students to call their local lawmakers and asking them to press the issue would make a big difference,” Chaffin said in the email. “From February through May of 2017, ASUM liaised with the Governor’s office in attempts to get the nomination process moving more quickly, and the UM System was doing the same with respect to its nominees for the Board of Curators.”
Chaffin said multiple factors were at play in the delay in nominating Lauer.
“There are innumerable factors that can complicate a nomination, but certainly the fact that this is the Governor’s first year and there were a number of controversial bills being considered—employment discrimination legislation and right-to-work, for example—made issues worse,” Chaffin said in the email.
Greitens’ other appointments on Monday included his picks for curators, Julia Brncic from St. Louis and Jon Sundvold from Columbia.
Edited by Olivia Garrett | firstname.lastname@example.org