Iowa State University is next in line to seat a student representative on the nine-member Board of Regents, after recent University of Northern Iowa graduate Rachael Johnson last week announced plans to resign with two years left on her term.
State code requires the board that governs Iowa’s public universities include eight at-large members and one student member who is enrolled full-time in one of the three institutions at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Because Johnson in May 2018 graduated Summa Cum Laude from UNI with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and middle level education and is planning to continue working at the Truman Scholarship Foundation — rather than re-enrolling in some capacity — she must resign, effective April 30.
Student regents have a year to re-enroll after graduation before they’re required to step down, according to Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman.
Having achieved in April 2017 the prestigious Truman Scholarship, awarded annually by the Harry S. Truman Foundation in support of next-generation public service leaders, Johnson for the past year has participated in the Truman Albright Fellows program and worked as a resident scholar with the foundation.
In that role, she’s serving as development and communications officer, working on fundraising, alumni development and educational programming. She’ll continue in that capacity through the next year and head to graduate school in fall 2020 — although Johnson told The Gazette she hasn’t decided where yet.
Her six-year appointment, which began May 1, 2015, was to expire April 30, 2021. Whoever Gov. Kim Reynolds picks as her replacement will serve out those last two years.
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When Johnson, 22, joined the board, she planned to become a teacher. But her exposure to public service and the “fascinating world of higher education” shifted those plans.
“My time on the Board of Regents has been life changing to say the least,” she told The Gazette. “I have now realized that working in higher education is where I’m meant to be. Since being a regent, I have fallen in love with the complexities and challenges of higher education. Higher education has the ability to completely transform not only an individual person, but an entire state or even the world; it is unlike anything else.”
Because the student regent position rotates through the three public universities, Iowa State is due a representative. Johnson replaced former University of Iowa graduate student Hanna Walsh, who herself served an abbreviated term.
Walsh was appointed in November 2012 to replace Iowa State University student Greta Johnson, whose term was to span May 1, 2009, to April 30, 2015, until she resigned in 2012.
Rachael Johnson said she’s grateful to have gotten four years on the board and proud of the role she’s played.
“I would have to say I am most proud of helping to select our three phenomenal university presidents, and the board’s executive director,” she said. “Choosing an institutional head is one of the largest, if not the largest, responsibilities of a regent, and I have had the pleasure of selecting four.”
As for advice for the next student representative, Johnson suggested, “Take part in as many activities outside of the board meetings as possible.”
“Coming on as a new board member at any stage in one’s life is surely intimidating, but especially when you’re 18 years old,” she said. “So, I would also tell the next student regent to ask as many questions as possible; don’t be afraid to not know.”
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Board President Mike Richards, who joined a year after Johnson, in a statement called her an “outstanding member” who is “exceedingly committed to public higher education and has been a strong advocate for our regent institutions.”
“She also did a remarkable job on a variety of board committees, including as chair of our Campus and Student Affairs Committee,” Richards said.
Johnson’s resignation means Gov. Kim Reynolds must appoint a fourth new regent for induction this spring. Earlier this month, she appointed GOP donor David Barker of Iowa City to replace outgoing regent Larry McKibben. She also proposed keeping incumbent Milt Dakovich of Waterloo for a second six-year term and reappointing Jim Lindenmayer of Ottumwa, who was appointed on an interim basis last summer to fill a vacancy.
Regent appointees must receive confirmation from two-thirds of the Senate to become official. A Senate education subcommittee on Monday, without dissent, confirmed Barker, Dakovich, and Lindenmayer — pushing them through for a vote with the full Senate.
The Board of Regents, among other things, sets tuition rates and approves capital construction projects across the campuses costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Student regents hold the same voting rights and committee powers as the other at-large members.
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