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How is the Student Trustee Selected?

After serving as the Student Trustee on the Board of Trustees for nearly three years, graduate student Rodney Hughes is nearing the end of his term on the Board, and the process of selecting his successor is well underway. What goes into selecting a student to fill this role? Exactly what does it take to earn a seat on the Board of Trustees?

Composed of 32 members, the Board of the University is the overall governing body of the university. Although the position of Student Trustee is not required under the Penn State Charter, which outlines the Board’s duties, or the Board’s bylaws, it has been a customary position since the 1970s. The position is one of the six seats filled by the Governor of the Commonwealth.

After working this summer with Paula Ammerman, Director of the Office of the Board of Trustees, she and Hughes established a timeline for the application process. Because of the gubernatorial elections held last November, Hughes said the process began a bit later than it did when he applied to ensure the nomination would occur under the new governor.

The application process began with an open call for applications in November. Aspirants were expected to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation and answers to eight short answer questions. From there, applications were reviewed by a diverse group of student leaders.

During this process, Hughes said there was no “ideal” student in mind for the position. Candidates did not need to be of a certain academic standing–both undergraduate and graduate students were considered equally. Rather, Hughes and the rest of the committee were looking for individuals who embodied certain qualities essential to succeeding in the position of Student Trustee, including:

  • The ability to process large amounts of information regarding many aspects the university and how they operate
  • A yearning to become knowledgeable on manners that the student may not be familiar with, but would have to know for the position
  • Willingness and ability to utilize their own information and opinions , but still work with others who may not share the same beliefs regarding aspects of the university

After reviewing all applications, the committee selected standout applicants for interviews. Hughes said the committee worked with administrators, but their roles were more to oversee the process and all final decisions in these rounds were made by the committee. Following these interviews, the committee is charged with selecting their final candidates for the position before the final selection transitions to the Office of the Governor.

Finalists will be interviewed by Ronald Tomalis, Secretary-Designee of Education, on behalf of Governor Corbett. Once a final decision is made, the nominee must be confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate.

Though not at liberty to reveal the identities of the final candidates, according to Hughes the process is currently in the hands of the state.

When asked if he had any recommendations for whomever his successor may be, Hughes remained neutral.

“It’s a position that’s very much what you make of it. I want this part of the experience to be preserved for the next person to hold the position,” said Hughes.  “I’m glad I’ll be around to be a resource, but I don’t want the next person to feel things need to be done the way I did them.”

Despite this, Hughes said he is excited to learn from the perspective of his successor. While no date is set for this announcement, with Hughes’s term winding down it should be in the near future.

About the Author

Ali Fogarty

Ali Fogarty is a senior from the suburbs of Philadelphia majoring in Public Relations and Political Science who's passionate about Netflix and everything bagels.


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