Editor’s Note: The is the first in a series of Daily Lobo profiles on the newly nominated members of the Board of Regents.

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents’ primary responsibility is making critical decisions for the University that affect it financially, and greatly impact its management and goals. While six of the seven regents are established members of the community, one of them brings a unique perspective to the table — the student regent.

Melissa Henry, a Ph.D. candidate at UNM working on her doctorate in counselor education and supervision, was appointed on Feb. 9 by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as the student regent for a two-year term. Henry said she did not originally expect to be appointed to the position.

“I didn’t anticipate ever being selected as the student regent and the reasoning behind that is because I’m not a New Mexico native,” Henry said. “I’m not really a true representation of the student body. I’m a Ph.D. student. Most of the students here are undergrads.”

Henry is originally from California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in counseling from California State University, Fresno. Henry is a certified mental health counselor and works for a private practice in Albuquerque. Her work is primarily counseling couples but also serving individuals with trauma histories. 

During the Summer 2018 and Fall 2018 semesters, Henry served as the chief of staff of the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA). Prior to holding that position, Henry said she didn’t know what the Board of Regents was. 

“I don’t think a lot of students know what it is,” Henry said. “Unless you’re directly involved with some initiative on campus, or in student government, it’s not something that’s really on your mind.”

As GPSA’s chief of staff, Henry attended Board of Regents meetings and became familiar with the board’s responsibilities.

“I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s prepared me (is) having a relationship with students on campus from different associations, ASUNM, GPSA and kind of seeing the back door —  the backside of how administration works at UNM and what are some of the things that are really important to us,” Henry said. 

Henry said some of those important issues she wants to bring to the table as the student regent are centered around improving communication.

“I’m thinking about communication in teams and leadership, and really that’s one of my first goals going into this position, is building a relationship with this team I’m going to have to work with,” Henry said. 

After building a relationship with the other regents, Henry said she wants to focus on how to connect with the student body in order to advocate for and support students. Henry said she believes the student voice has been lost in the Board of Regents but the recent athletic department controversy has helped bring student and community voices to the table.

“I had never seen that many students or community members ever show up to a meeting,” Henry said. “For once, the community and students were interested in what was going on. And they weren’t just interested, they were advocating, they were actively speaking up, holding signs, it was so exciting to see that much sense of community.”

In August of last year, the Board of Regents upheld their July decision to cut Athletic Department spending and some varsity sports. That meeting drew a large number of concerned community members. 

Henry said she believes the Board of Regents can use the community’s current interest in University affairs to build a more positive relationship with the community. 

“I think it’s important that there is input coming in from the University — from the community about what’s happening — what’s affecting the students and the community,” Henry said. “So I think that’s my overarching goal... having a relationship with the community of students at UNM and the greater community of Albuquerque and New Mexico.”

Tom Hanlon is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @TomHanlonNM.