As the California State University's Board of Trustees look forward to the upcoming September board meeting, two of the members are also packing their backpacks and sorting their class schedules as they prepare for the fall semester. Maggie White of California State University, Stanislaus and Jorge Reyes of California State University, Northridge are the two new Student Trustees to be appointed to the Board by Governor Brown to represent the university's more than 470,000 students. As current students themselves, Maggie and Jorge are the CSU student body's vocal platform – having a say in what is going on at the CSU's 23 campuses.
Every major decision concerning the CSU is made by the Board of Trustees. Adopting rules, regulations and policies governing the university are overseen by the 25-member Board. The Board also has authority over curricular development, use of property, development of facilities, and fiscal and human resources management. As Student Trustees, Maggie and Jorge's role is invaluable, providing the student perspective to Trustee meetings that allows for the Board to make well-rounded and informed decisions.
The CSU spoke with Maggie and Jorge to ask them about their priorities as Trustees, their studies and career goals, and how they balance it all.
What's your major and what year are you in?
MW: I'm wrapping up my bachelor's in Communication Studies this summer. I just received my acceptance letter to Stan State's Master of Public Administration program, and I'm excited to start my graduate courses this fall.
JR: This fall, I'm entering the 2nd year of my graduate program in Communications Studies at CSUN. I graduated in spring 2015 with a bachelor's in Journalism and a double minor in Recreation Management and Spanish Language Journalism.
What other activities are you involved in?
MW: I wanted to focus on my new role as the voting student trustee this year, so I recently left my second job on campus as the government relations coordinator at Associated Students, Inc. This will allow me to manage my graduate courses and all of the traveling I do for the student trustee position.
JR: I'm currently working in CSUN's IT department while also serving as the vice president of University Affairs for California State Student Association (CSSA). My involvement with CSSA requires me to oversee University Affairs topics and issues that relate to all CSU campuses.
Between school, your new Trustee role and other personal obligations you have, you must be so busy. How do you balance it all?
MW: Having a strong support system is so important. When I get stressed out, I call my parents and they talk me through it. I'm so lucky to have them in my corner; they keep my head on straight while I juggle being a student and a student leader.
JR: While I am fully engaged in everything I'm involved in – studies and other activities – I make sure to always have time for myself to prevent getting overwhelmed or burned out. Continued support from my friends and family definitely helps, and they are understanding of my schedule.
What made you want to be a student trustee?
MW: I was drawn to this role because it allows me to serve as an advocate for education equity. I've always been passionate about increasing accessibility to education. I remember watching the news when I was young and realizing that not all kids in other countries are allowed to go to school, and the unfairness of that made me so upset. Growing up in a free country and having access to higher education, and a family that supported my passion for learning, has been the greatest privilege. When I juxtapose my experience with those of the women and girls around the world who are systemically stopped from obtaining an education, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to make our world a better place. I am so grateful for the opportunity to stay in school and even earn a master's degree, and I want everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, to have the same rights and opportunities as me in obtaining a high-quality education.
JR: College has always been important to my family but we didn't know how I'd get there or how I'd be able to afford college. Once I started at CSUN, I met mentors who showed me how to take control of my college career. I then got involved in student government where I was able to pay it forward by pointing students in the right direction and informing them of the campus resources available for them. This experience developed my passion for higher education and inspired me to be involved in student affairs so I can continue to help students. As CSSA VP, I have a better understanding of the CSU student demographics and I wanted to elevate this responsibility of helping other students by applying to be a student trustee.
What issues are you looking forward to addressing as a student trustee?
MW: I understand how difficult it is for many CSU students to afford their college tuition on top of living expenses, so my first priority coming into this position is to advocate for the Year-Round Pell Grant and increased state investment. I am looking forward to advocating for legislation in Sacramento that is helpful to our students, including legislation addressing food and housing insecurity.
JR: An issue I want to focus on is higher ed equity and making sure that all of our students are receiving the proper resources, such as advisement and food security, as well as resources for undocumented students. By the end of my term, I hope to have helped students reach their completion goals and contributed to the improvement of the CSU's graduation rates.
What's the scope of your responsibilities and how is your role as student trustee different from the other trustees?
MW: I think that, as a student trustee, my role is easier defined than the other trustees - I'm here to represent students. When making decisions, I am guided by asking myself, "Am I helping students?" If the answer is "yes," then I know that my decision is right. Other trustees have to consider so many other factors, such as staff, alumni, faculty, students and the public. My role simply focuses on the needs of the students. It's a unique role because I get to travel to campuses to listen to the students' issues and concerns, and then come back to the Chancellor's Office and present my observations to the Board of Trustees to help inform their decisions.
JR: It's an honor to represent over 470,000 students. I have the privilege to have one-on-one time with students, as I listen and understand their concerns. My role is different from other trustees because I can provide the student perspective as I represent the voice of the student body. I can serve as the students' communications platform at board meetings.
What are your career goals and how has your experience at the CSU helped you prepare?
MW: I'm so grateful for the school's amazing faculty, staff and administrators who's provided me with guidance and support throughout my undergraduate studies at Stan State. I originally wanted to be a journalist so that I could help people tell their stories in a larger way than they may be able to on their own. As student trustee, I am given an opportunity to do so. I have a newfound power in education advocacy. I get to go to Washington, D.C. and Sacramento to tell students' stories. After completing my master's, I still don't have a well-defined answer as to what career path I want to take, but I do know that I want to continue this road in helping people, and I know that an opportunity to obtaining education is what helps people the most. Whether it will be in my job description after college or something I passionately pursue outside of work, I see myself in education advocacy.
JR: After I receive my master's, I hope to continue my work advocating for higher education, maybe in student affairs or public affairs. If I don't end up working for the CSU, I hope to work in the scope of higher education to help California's students.
CSUN has been such a great institution for me, with so many resources and very diverse. It's clear to me that CSUN focuses on the student experience; they value student input and prioritize students' needs. CSUN faculty and administrators have served as positive influences for me. My overall experience at CSUN has helped shape my expectations of higher education and is a role model for what I would like to see in all campuses.
Do you have advice for incoming freshmen this fall?
MW: Talk to an advisor as often as possible because it can be easy to get derailed from your path to graduating on time without guidance. Talk to your professors during their office hours because they're there to help you. Don't be shy! They love what they do and are dedicated to taking the time to speak with you. If you get involved on campus through organizations and clubs, you will care more about your time at the university and be a more engaged student. Ultimately, these relationships you maintain with your professors, advisors and campus community will build you a strong support system that will be valuable during your time at Stan State and beyond. Lastly, avoid the geese (also known as The Goose Mafia)! They're beautiful and fun to watch but they will chase you across campus if you get too close!
JR: Feel free to utilize the nap station at the Oasis Center and get involved on campus. CSUN's vibrant campus atmosphere will be your home away from home and everyone can be your friend.