The UW is predominantly run by 10 people on the board of regents, and one of those positions is up for application: student regent, which comes with full tuition payment.
The board has a number of roles, including overseeing the university’s budget, establishing entrance requirements, and creating new departments.
Matters relating to the hiring, discipline, or tenure of faculty members and personnel are off-limits for the student regent, and voting on them is considered a conflict of interest.
“The student regent is the most important student at the university,” ASUW president Tyler Wu said.
Wu and Alex Bolton, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), organize the committee that selects three to five candidates from the application pool.
The governor then selects the next student regent from those candidates.
This year’s student regent is Vanessa Kritzer. Over 50 percent of student regents have been women.
“She has more power than Alex and I combined,” Wu said. “She can have a vote where we can’t.”
Kritzer said the job bridges the gap between students and the administration, including students at all three of the UW campuses.
“The truth is, it’s not representative,” said Kritzer of her position. “Each regent interprets the role differently.”
The position was originally fought for with Senate Bill 5517 in 1997 to give students a voice in some of the university’s most important decisions. Enacted one year later, the previously student-less board of regents expressed many concerns and reservations, saying the “learning curve [was] high” and a student would be biased.
Kritzer tries to honor the position’s creation by “taking student accounts into consideration” when she votes.
“I feel very accountable that I connect with students,” Kritzer said.
But at the core, Kritzer said, the job is to ensure the financial and future sustainability of the institution.
“There has to be some base knowledge of the university, of the mission of the university, and the role it plays at the state level,” Wu said.
Getting to know the state legislature is yet another aspect. In previous years, higher education saw a decline in state support, which increased tuition. Last year, the legislature chose to decrease tuition, which was in large part due to students and the student regent lobbying for support.
“We must continue to share stories with legislators about the impact higher education makes, and what affordability means in terms of providing opportunity to Washingtonians,” Kritzer said.
Bolton was the student regent in 2004, and called the experience “amazing.” He said it really allows someone to see, understand, and learn “how crazy and big this place is and all that goes on.”
For some reason, Bolton said, the governor tends to lean toward graduate students from the Seattle campus, even though the applicant-selection committee deliberately chooses a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from all three of the UW campuses.
All but one student regent came from the Seattle campus, and the last time an undergraduate student held the position was eight years ago.
Approximately 61% of student regents have had degrees from either the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance or the UW Law School, and applicants frequently have ASUW or GPSS ties.
Kritzer wants everyone to know a specific type of pedigree isn’t required to apply. She was only at the end of her first year at the UW when she applied.
“I honestly didn’t think I would get it,” she said. “If you’re willing to be a leader, and care about making the UW a better place, you can define what qualified means.”
The job requires a balancing act with classes. Though Kritzer laughed about losing sleep, she said it does require self-care and knowing when to prioritize studies.
“I’ve devoted all my free time beyond my classes to being student regent,” she said. “It does mean you may not get to participate as much in things you want to do.”
Qualifications for being a student regent include a minimum 3.0 GPA, full-time undergraduate enrollment or 10 credits for a graduate student, and not concurrently running for an ASUW or GPSS election.
“The most important part is having a student voice there,” Kritzer said. “Each student brings a unique perspective of that student voice.”
Apply to be next year’s student regent here, or find it on the ASUW’s website: https://catalyst.uw.edu/collectit/dropbox/asuwpres/37782.
The application closes Monday, April 11.