LH: Tell me a bit about yourself as a student at Macalester and how you see campus.
LW: I’m a senior Biology major and a Political Science minor. Extracurricularly, I help to run Macalester College Emergency Medical Services (MCEMS). In the last year, I became more involved in the school as a whole — that interest came partly from my work with MCEMS, I think. I got to see both the student and administrative perspectives and wanted to reconcile those two. Also, last summer I was the student worker for Campus Activities and Operations, where I became more involved in planning for students.
LH: So even with these experiences through MCEMS, why did you decide to serve the school through these other committees?
LW: I think that I really value my time here from the student perspective — [and I have done] so much learning outside the classroom. I am exposed to how this institution is run, which is complicated and interesting and a fun way to look at this school.
So I applied for campus committees last spring. I studied abroad fall of 2013 and I had a pretty good experience, but I was just so happy to come back to Mac and I appreciated Mac in a very different way. I was excited to be back with such [thoughtful] students [at a place where] I feel like student voices are heard and there are opportunities for student voice.
I suppose this happened around the same time I took full-on leadership with MCEMS and had lots of meetings with the administration. I requested to work on the Resources and Planning Committee (RPC) even though I am not an Econ person at all, but I thought the idea of the school running on a financial basis was a really interesting perspective. We [essentially] look at different facets of the school budget and resources. We review the budget each year and pick a project for the semester from a list President Rosenberg provides. For the fall, we selected non-tenure faculty. And I really appreciate that President Rosenberg took that issue seriously and that [the committee] hear[s] conversations like that and really want them to get addressed.
I have actually really enjoyed my time on RPC. [As one of two students, the other being Cole Yates ’17], we sit on RPC with Kathy Murray and David Wheaton, four faculty members, two department chairs, and maybe four staff members. This past year, two were non-tenure-track faculty. [We actually have] a report coming out soon that I’m really excited about regarding non-tenure faculty.
LH: I will keep an eye out for that. And what about your work with the Board of Trustees? What has that experience has been like so far?
LW: [Before this year] I hadn’t really had any exposure to the Board. I had no idea who comprised the Board and what they did and what their role was on campus. I really enjoyed my work with the Board in October, and I’m excited for spring. [On the Finance Board Committee], I sit with the two chairs from RPC and I get to hear exactly what the Board members on that committee hear. I enjoyed the dinner [with Trustees] too — [although sometimes] I didn’t feel like I had a lot to contribute alongside these super intelligent alums at a table. [Some of them are people] who are really invested in business, which is super interesting [since they are all] Mac alums.
LH: So given that it sounds like they are from different disciplines and work in different spheres, how did you feel like you connect with the Trustees?
LW: I felt like they were really accessible; they really wanted to hear perspectives and student stories. Sometimes [I felt like] I don’t really have anything useful to say, I don’t have an MBA — but we also had conversations about preserving what is important about Macalester. And the conversations the Board was having about Macalester really aligned with things I think about for Macalester. [I think] the Board has to think about the school as a business — not a profit-making business, but a business [nonetheless]. We value so much being able to give aid to students and also need to keep our head above water — which is not unique to Macalester, [but perhaps] consistent across small private colleges.
LH: I love that you feel immersed in Macalester from different perspectives. But I’m starting to realize that I may never know an institution with the kind of depth I see Macalester — and that’s kind of disquieting. Is that something floating through your head at all? Are you thinking about these things after May?
LW: Absolutely. It definitely made me more interested in working with a nonprofit or an organization — maybe right after graduation, maybe somewhere down the line. I hadn’t thought that I liked thinking complexly about mission, about reconciling mission with our current economic and social environments. This position has made me more interested in a strategic planning role with a nonprofit one day — and made me think about how I want to be involved and what kinds of skills I have to contribute to an organization.
LH: Are there specific things that you are looking forward to hearing Trustees discuss at the upcoming meetings in March? Or anything you want to place on their radar?
LW: I’m interested in hearing about the execution plan for the Strategic Plan priorities [approved in January 2015]. I would love to hear the next steps — thoughts about the timeline, about funding, prioritization of projects. Where will the money come from? Will we do a capital campaign? Use a portion of the reserves? Part of the endowment?
I think there was great confusion on campus about what the Strategic Plan meant — not just amongst students. And now that [the priorities] are approved, I am curious what that means for [incorporating more of the] campus community.