Junior Mike Hoeschele was named the second-ever student-selected trustee at the end of the spring semester and recently served at his first Board of Trustees meeting held at Penn State Harrisburg. As student trustee, he will sit on the Board with full voting privileges and will also join a committee, though exactly which committee he’ll serve on hasn’t yet been determined. We sat down with Mike to talk about his Penn State experience so far and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role.
Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to come to Penn State?
I am a rising junior majoring in Nuclear Engineering. Over the past two years I have been involved as Chair of the University Park Allocation Committee, a Lion Scout, and the new Student Trustee. Choosing Penn State was a process that I did not envision when it first started. I was applying to different Universities and Penn State made the list (at first) because of its relative distance from my hometown of Cherry Hill, NJ. After visiting Penn State everything changed and I realized this is where I wanted to be. I withdrew my applications and accepted my offer to Penn State the day of my tour. (Shout out to the awesome Penn State Tour Guides!)
I love the spirit and pride Penn Staters have and knew that I wanted to be part of it. The line “you have to visit a campus before you really know if you want to go there” is an incredibly accurate statement. The opportunities seemed endless in Happy Valley and I could not wait to join this family. Three years later, I know I made the right decision, and love being a part of others’ decisions to attend the university through my work as a tour guide.
What made you apply for the position, and what was the application process like?
The application process started with a written application, was followed up by multiple rounds of interviews and ended with a final interview conducted with 3 members of the board of trustees.
I decided to apply for the Student Trustee position because I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference. As UPAC Chair I had the privilege of working with thousands of students and hearing so many amazing stories. I saw the Student Trustee role as a way to expand the net of change that I could work to create. Our university and its students face challenges everyday and being able to be a part of making Penn State as great as it truly can be is a humbling and awesome opportunity.
What are some of the duties your new position entails?
As Student Trustee I am responsible for being the student voice on the Board of Trustees for over 95,000 Penn Staters around the commonwealth. On the Board I will work with my fellow trustees to ensure that Penn State is performing at the highest possible level. While I am a student trustee, part of my responsibilities also include making decisions that are in the best interest of the university and all of its stakeholders — including alumni, faculty, staff, community members, and future students.
Last year, you were the chair of the University Park Allocations Committee. What was that experience like, and how did it prepare you to take on the role of trustee?
The position of UPAC Chair was one that I loved and am continuing for the upcoming academic year. Being able to interact with the all of the students was the best part of the job. Seeing the amazing things going on around our university everyday makes you take a step back and recognize how many opportunities Penn State actually does have to offer. It is not just a tour guide fact but it is the reality of being a student at Penn State. This position has prepared me to be the Student Trustee by teaching me how to deal with conflict resolution, communication, finances, and organization.
How well do you think the Board works together? How do you see yourself integrating into that?
After experiencing only one meeting I would say that the Board is prepared and ready to serve the students, faculty, and alumni. Every member of the Board is interested in creating the best Penn State possible and although different Trustees may have different ideas on how to get there, we all share an earnest passion for Penn State. Diversity of thought is an incredible and important tool in the leadership of any organization.
I have appreciated how welcoming every member of the Board and administration has been to me and I look forward to being alongside them as we continue to work toward a better Penn State. As a student, my role is to provide that perspective when having discussions as a Board but my fiduciary responsibility is the same as any other Trustee and I intend to perform that duty to the highest extent.
You’re the second-ever student to serve in the codified student trustee position. What do you see as the importance of a student serving on the Board of Trustees? How do you think the student voice on the board is evolving?
Penn State’s Board of Trustees is designed with its multiple constituencies to successfully achieve our land grant mission. The importance of the student voice on the board cannot be underscored enough. Decisions that affect students are made every meeting cycle and as the Student Trustee, I plan to work to ensure fellow Trustees understand the student perspective. My fellow Trustees have expressed how they appreciate having a student to provide perspective and the student voice will continue to play a large role in decisions being made in years to come.
What do you think is the biggest problem currently facing the Board of Trustees?
With rising costs of education around the country Penn State is no exception. The effect that high tuition and fees have on students is important and the Board understands that. With difficult circumstances we as a board and the administration continue to work and find solutions. Penn State faces unique challenges like increasing faculty wages to remain competitive with our peers, our infrastructure requires attention as it continues to age, and many more, all without an increase in our State appropriation. As a land grant institution serving the sons and daughters of Pennsylvania, without the help of the Commonwealth, these complicated problems are continually supported by student dollars.
How do you plan to represent the student body? What one student interest in particular do you think needs to be protected or brought to life?
Shared governance has been a topic of discussion at institutions of higher education around the country. Penn State is committed to shared governance with its students and continuing to prove the benefit of this practice is important to me and should be to every student. Allowing the students to have a say in the decision-making process strengthens the Penn State system and shows the dedication of the administration and the Trustees to its students and their voices.
What are some of the overall impacts you hope to make during your tenure?
I hope to reach more students as a Trustee for the university. I want students to feel free to reach out to me, express concerns, or simply just share insight that might help with Board decisions that are coming. The student voice is a large one and I hope to expand the impact that it has. My predecessor did an amazing job of engaging students and I want to continue that legacy. I especially want to be present and interactive with campuses away from my own. The Commonwealth Campuses make Penn State the institution it is and they are truly personifying our land grant mission. I want the students of the Commonwealth to know their voices are heard no matter how far geographically they might be from a Board of Trustee meeting.
If you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
Easy, Pterodactyl. They were the first animals to fly other than insects. Who doesn’t want to have the wingspan of an F-16 Fighter Jet and be able to fly?