Student representatives serve on front lines of university leadership
Erica Wood of Cumming, Ga., a senior majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and pursuing minors in civic agriculture and food systems and crop and soil environmental sciences, says her senior year has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Wood serves as the undergraduate student representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the governing authority of the university. She and graduate student Nick Warrington function as liaisons between the student body and the board in a non-voting capacity.
For Wood, the most eye opening part of her time on the board is how much members count on the voice of students.
“I am just continually impressed at how much our board appreciates student input, and how much they are truly concerned about the student experience,” she said.
The events of the past year have been extraordinary, especially as the board moved through the recruitment and selection of new university president Timothy Sands. “I did not serve on the search committee, but I helped gather student input about their desires for the next president. Prior to making their final selection, the board consulted me for my opinion about the candidates.”
Wood is encouraging other students to consider applying for next year’s undergraduate position on the board. The deadline for submitting an application is 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
“My advice is to prepare as much as possible; come into your interviews knowing possible issues that you’d like to concentrate on next year. Have a plan of how you will make an impact and remedy any student concerns. Have ideas for student outreach,” Wood said.
Nick Warrington of Wellston, Ohio, who is pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, says his time as the graduate student representative to the board has transformed his experience at Virginia Tech.
“The opportunity to meet and get to know alumni, donors, administrators, and graduate students has made me feel like a true member of the Virginia Tech community.” Warrington added, “I am grateful. It’s a great way to be engaged in very high-level conversations and make a long-term impact.”
Warrington agreed with Wood. The highlight was their involvement with the presidential search process. “I am very grateful to members of the board, President Steger, Rector Quillen, and Minnis Ridenour for recognizing the importance of student involvement in the process. It’s exciting to realize that I played an important role in the selection of President Sands.”
For Wood and Warrington, their terms end June 30, 2014. Warrington, who says he plans a career as an administrator in higher education, describes opportunities to understand the governance system as priceless. “This role has truly enhanced my team-building skills because I must realize that I cannot do anything alone. I must work with various stakeholders to push initiatives forward.”
Wood says she plans to volunteer with the Peace Corps, or work for Virginia Tech in the Office of International Research, Education and Development.
Either way, she credits her Board of Visitors experience with paving a clear path. “By serving on the board, I’ve learned more deeply about professionalism, the importance of networking. I’ve loved every year. Every year something happens that makes me more and more grateful that I came to this school.”