Board of Curators student representative continuing duties; Nixon yet to name successor
Amy Johnson’s term expired in January, but the governor has yet to name a replacement.
Feb. 17, 2014
UM-Kansas City senior Amy Johnson will continue to serve as student representative to the UM System Board of Curators until Gov. Jay Nixon announces her successor.
Johnson's term expired Jan. 1, but she will be present at the next board meeting in April.
As the 2012-2013 student representative, Johnson acts as a liaison between the curators and the four UM System campuses’ student populations at the meetings. Johnson has a two-fold role in preventing a disconnect with the administration and students, she said.
"I ensure that if students have issues, concerns, things they want changed, that they are heard,” she said. “And (I make sure) that things actually happen from the grassroots up, as opposed to just decisions being made from the administration downward.”
UM System General Counsel Steve Owens said the student representatives have traditionally arrived at board meetings well-prepared.
“They enhance their viewpoints during the meetings in the same way as other board members, through well-informed and respectful discourse,” Owens said.
Johnson said the system’s primary focus should be on helping the students, and representatives sit in meetings to ensure that the curators’ decisions concerning students reflect their best interests. Although Johnson cannot vote on issues, she can voice the opinion of students before the Board decides what to do.
Johnson said she was initially attracted to the student representative role because she has a passion for advocacy work and empowering others to use their voices to make positive changes.
The senior pre-medical biology major worked as the National Youth Advocate for the American Diabetes Association in 2011. Now she sees parallels to her role as student representative.
“Then, I was the voice of all youth with diabetes in the U.S.,” she said. “And I worked to ensure that youth with diabetes realize they really do have power and that one individual can make a change. It’s really similar to my position now, in that instead of youth with diabetes, it’s 70,000 students in the UM System, and (I make) sure these students realize they do have a voice, that their voice counts, and they can do things on their own that'll make big changes in the end.”
To do her job of advocating for college students, Johnson said she utilizes the four campuses’ student governments and councils to learn of any student issues.
The issues do not necessarily always concern the Board of Curators, however.
“We are a fiduciary board, which means we are more of an oversight,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of issues I can discuss with the board members and UM System administrators but not bring forward to make a decision upon as this would be micromanagement on behalf of the board. The individual campuses retain a lot of power as they are well-suited to make decisions in the best interests of their unique university."
Johnson said she has, nevertheless, enjoyed working with the student governments and campus officials.
“I’ve actually enjoyed doing that sort of work because I get to know administrators, and they’re familiar with me,” Johnson said. “And it’s a lot easier for me to work with them regarding student issues and direct students to the correct point of contact to get things done. It’s something I enjoy because I like seeing change happening from the students.”
A student representative’s term is two years, and the role of representative rotates between campuses each time.
The campus's student government sends out applications in the fall, and it is the individual campus’s job to advertise the role and conduct interviews. The board position can be either an undergraduate or graduate student.
“(What) I value in our student representatives are intellect, hard work and civility,” Owens said. “I also appreciate it when they can balance their duty to act as an advocate for their constituency group with their duty to act in the best interests of the entire institution.
Johnson said she believes the strength of the candidate is contingent on the individual regardless of age but sees advantages to being an undergraduate.
“Because I am an undergrad student and I live on campus, I am even more able to speak on the college culture,” Johnson said. “As an undergrad, I’m also not as busy as a grad student would be, and there are a lot more undergraduates than graduates (on the campuses), so I actually think being an undergrad is a great strength.”
Johnson's predecessor came from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and her 2014-2015 successor will come from UM-St. Louis.
MU will have a student serving as representative in 2016-2017.
It is not uncommon for students to be appointed after the previous representative's term expires, Johnson said.
Johnson said she will be in contact with the new representative when he or she is appointed to help with the learning curve.
“The views of a student representative are always appreciated on issues directly involving students,” Owens said. “And it has been my observation that their views on non-student matters carry equal weight.”
Nixon’s office did not respond to interview requests for the story.