Few students will ever have the ability to impact the University of New Mexico like Becka Myers has.
Myers has served as a coordinator, a senator, a chairwomen and, most recently, as the president of the Associated Students of UNM, undergraduate student government. While many students disregard ASUNM, which has been expressed multiple times by senators during meetings, all students are affected by their decisions. When administrators need student input on a decision, like raising tuition, they go to ASUNM. If they can, they go to Myers.
Myers was born in Texas but sees Anchorage, Alaska as one of her homes. She went to South Anchorage High School, one of eight high schools in a city with a population of less than 300,000.
“We got super excited when the Target opened,” Myers said. “We couldn’t get into Olive Garden for months.”
Alaska was the home of Myers’ mother. She said her mother had always talked about moving the family back, but Myers thought she would never do it. They moved to Alaska when she was 13.
When Myers was 16, her mother passed away. At the time, Myers was participating in a french-language camp and learned the news over a phone call. In previous interviews, Myers said she had just read “Le Petit Prince” aka “The Little Prince” in its original french. The theme of the children’s book is about coping with death.
“At this camp… literature that was in English was considered contraband,” she said. “I flew home and the only book I had was this book. I read it again, I felt differently toward it after that.”
After her high school graduation, Myers said her father moved back to his hometown Seattle, Wash. Without her mother, Anchorage wasn’t the same. She said she didn’t want to go to college people from high school.
“Part of the appeal of UNM was that it was a big campus with a research institution,” Myers said, adding that UNM and Albuquerque still had a small-town feel that she appreciated. It was new. It would be an adventure.
Going from Alaska to New Mexico wasn’t a seamless transition for the native-born Texan. The food in particular was a tough sell. She said that she recognized that green chile was good, but questioned the hype around the New Mexico favorite.
When Myers made it to UNM, she met Alice Vernon.
“We initially met because they had this online program where they would match you with a roommate. I liked to think of it as like EHarmony for roommates,” Veron said. “(Myers) sent out this email and she made it sound like it was a mass email.”
Later, Veron realized that Myers had only sent out the email to her. They said there connection was nearly instant. When Myer’s became ASUNM President, she appointed Vernon for her chief of staff.
Myers and Veron applied to Emerging Lobo Leaders together. Neither got into the highly selective ASUNM mentorship program— and neither was deterred for long about the rejection.
“That following spring, I ended up getting really busy with life and work and school and didn’t apply (for ELL) but she did and started getting really involved with ASUNM at that point. I remember her coming home one day and being like ‘I really want to be ASUNM President’” Vernon said.
In 2018, Myers ran unopposed for ASUNM president.
Her term began with one of the most controversial events in recent UNM history. In the summer, the Board of Regents, who govern UNM, axed four sports citing savings and Title IX compliance.
Shorty after the July meeting, Myers said, “I think, and I will say this loudly, the Regents are in a position of power and we are just there to advise them,” adding, “for them to try and spin it in a public forum to where it’s on someone else — and not (on) them — is exactly the issue that we’ve had with them in the past.”
That feeling of powerlessness was echoed by other members of ASUNM at it’s first meeting in the fall 2018 semester. At least for Myers, that feeling would not last. At the start of 2019, Myers said that her experience with the administration had been empowering.
When the regents voted to raise tuition and student fees this year, they first asked Myers if the students would understand their justification for doing so.
UNM raised tuition, with Myers’ blessing.
When Myers left the podium at her last Board of regents meeting, UNM President Garnett Stokes and Regent Kimberly Sanchez Real whispered their praises about her, picked up by the microphones.
Myers’ legacy, like most ASUNM Presidents, is indiscernible. The seeds she planted in her four years at UNM have yet to germinate and when they grow her name will have long been washed away. Myers said that’s okay with her. She said she hopes people remember her administration as empathetic and competent, but that being remembered is not what’s important to her.
“A lot of the work that you do in this position… people don’t fully get,” Myers said, adding that a lot of the external work, i.e. negotiating with the administration, goes unnoticed even within ASUNM.
If anything she said the momentum from her predecessor, Noah Brooks, was continued through her and hopes it carries over into President-elect Adam Biederwolf’s administration.
“I would never do it again,” Myers said about being president, “but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.”
Myers said she plans on taking a few years off before applying to UNM School of Law.
Justin Garcia is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516garc.