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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gov. Susana Martinez nominates UNM medical student Heidi Overton to be the new UNM student regent

culture@dailylobo.com

As one UNM student regent term comes to a close, a medical student looks to fill that seat.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday that she had nominated student Heidi Overton to be the University’s next student regent.

Overton will take over Jacob Wellman’s seat if she is confirmed by the state Senate. Students Frankie Gonzales, Kurtis Donisthorpe, Athanasios Manole and Alejandro Mendiaz-Rivera were the other four candidates sent to the governor by President Robert Frank.

The governor also nominated Camille Hawkins as student regent for Western New Mexico University, Jordan Banegas for New Mexico State University, Chase Sturdevant for Eastern New Mexico University and Israel Rodriguez-Rios for New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Overton said she will take a leadership approach similar the one taken by Frank.

“One of the examples to follow, President Frank during his first 100 days said he spent it listening, and I think that’s a pretty good example of being willing to come in and listen and learn … to see what students are concerned about, what faculty and staff are concerned about,” Overton said. “There’s going to be a really sharp learning curve and I want to make that a priority to come in and listen and be willing to learn quickly.”

Overton, from Gallup, N.M., earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Health, Medicine & Human Values at UNM and is enrolled in the BA/MD program. She received the Regents Scholarship as an undergraduate student, served as an ASUNM senator, and was a member of the finance committee and Student Fee Review Board. As an undergrad, Overton played for the women’s rugby team and taught at CAPS. Overton also received the University’s Clauve Outstanding Senior Award as an undergraduate.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of experience at UNM, but my experience isn’t the same as everyone else at UNM in that it’s really important to see what students are going through right now. One of the practical ways I can do that — I have a good relationship with the ASUNM president and the GPSA president and they know the students in their constituencies. I definitely want to develop that relationship further and see what they understand,” she said.

Student regents have full voting power but serve a two-year term, while regular regents serve six years. Overton said if her nomination is confirmed, she plans to push efforts to include the University in economic developments for New Mexico.

“I really see us playing a role in the economic development of the state, possibly through collaborative and creative research … maybe some more collaborative partnerships with local businesses, and figuring out what businesses want from graduates from UNM and how can we better make sure that so we’re better educating our students as a whole,” she said.

Overton said she also plans to focus on more immediate issues, having attended the most recent New Mexico Legislative Lottery Success Scholarship forum. The scholarship funds expected to run out by fiscal year 2014, and forum addressed possible changes that could ensure funding for the scholarship remains.

“I know that the Lottery Scholarship has really been on everyone’s minds right now and is something that needs to be addressed quickly,” she said. “I want to jump in with the work that’s already been done and work together with everyone that’s been working on it already … we need a solution this legislative session, we need some sort of solution.”