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Monday, December 22, 2014

UNM Student Regent Jacob Wellman reflects on his two-year term, discusses plans for the future and his successor

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Student Regent Jacob Wellman’s two-year term ends Dec. 31. The Daily Lobo spoke with Wellman about his term, his plans for the future and his successor, whoever that may be. Here’s what Wellman had to say.

Daily Lobo: Your term as student regent will end this month. How have the past two years treated you?

Jacob Wellman: My term has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve learned about higher education, public administration and business. Most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about leadership from some very incredible leaders around the state. I do feel that I’ve started to give back to a community that has given me so much, but paying it forward is a lifetime pursuit.

DL: You recently spoke about a “tuition policy menu.” What progress have you made so far? Will your involvement end as your term comes to an end?

The “tuition policy menu” is a proposed tuition-increase policy that would create restrictions for how much the administration could increase tuition each year and require the administration to explain the need for any increase that exceeds the amount set by the policy. In the past, Wellman said the “tuition policy menu” would ensure that the administration cannot increase tuition costs in a random fashion.

JW: The regents’ Academic/Student Affairs and Research Committee did have a discussion last month about tuition policy. The Tuition and Fee Team, a University committee tasked with studying tuition and fees, has indicated that a tuition policy will be on their agenda this year. I look forward to hearing their recommendations and will help further their work however I can. Setting tuition by policy is a long-term goal that I’m sure the University will continue to pursue after my term ends.

DL: Where have your discussions about the Lottery Scholarship led you? Do you have a more concrete idea of the proposal you and ASUNM President Caroline Muraida plan to bring to the legislative session?

The New Mexico Legislative Lottery Success Scholarship is expected to run out by fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1, 2013. Because of this, Wellman and ASUNM President Caroline Muraida hosted a Lottery Scholarship town hall to gather student input for a proposal as to how the New Mexico State Legislature should respond the solvency problem. Some of the proposals include changing the scholarship requirements to need-based, merit-based, not funding remedial courses or a hybrid of these options.

JW: We’ve learned a lot about the Lottery Scholarship, what it was intended to do, and how it impacts students in New Mexico. From students who attended the Lottery Scholarship forum, we’ve heard a strong call for tying Lottery Scholarship eligibility to academic success. Obviously, the best reform would be to increase funding and help more students go to college, but that’s not always possible in a limited budget environment. We want to be responsible users of the income the Lottery Authority brings in and be prepared to recommend where the conversation on the scholarship will lead. Our next step will be to discuss our findings with legislators and see if there’s a way forward in legislation.

DL: Will you remain involved in the legislative session?

JW: Yes, I plan to. I think I’ll keep working with ASUNM to prepare for the legislative session and the proposal for the Lottery Scholarship. I’ll be attending the legislative session.

DL: What do you think your biggest accomplishment has been as the student regent?

JW: I’m very proud of our presidential search, resulting in the hire of (UNM President) Bob Frank. Having President Frank here will be huge for the long-term success of UNM. Otherwise, I have been able to include students and student considerations in the governance of the University. I’m proud of that and hope it continues to improve.

DL: What was your biggest struggle?

JW: I guess balancing school with other activities, work and my duties as a regent has been a challenge. But, looking back on almost two years in office, I’m happy with all that I was able to accomplish in every part of my life.

DL: Have you met the student regent finalists? How do you feel about them?

JW: I have met many of them and read their interviews in the Daily Lobo. I’m very excited to work with whoever is chosen and share what I’ve learned in this office. Every nominee seems dedicated to this University and passionate about making UNM a better place.
DL: What would your one recommendation be to the next student regent?

JW: Don’t be afraid to participate. It is daunting to be at the table with accomplished professionals in front of TV cameras, but it is important to remember that the student regent is an equal member of the board charged with governing the University.

DL: Will you have any responsibilities in terms of guiding the next student regent? If so, how do you plan to show him or her the ropes?

JW: If the next regent will have me, I hope to be able to share what I’ve learned on the job and offer my advice however it may be useful to my successor.

DL: What do you plan to do when your terms ends?

JW: Graduate in May. I’m looking forward to testing what I’ve learned at UNM in the workforce before applying to law schools.