At the University of California’s Board of Regents July 16 to 17 meeting, UC Santa Barbara graduate student Jesse M. Bernal will be selected as the 35th UC student regent since the position was inaugurated in 1975.
The student regent is a voting member of the UC Board of Regents who attends all board and committee meetings.
“The student regent plays an important role in bridging the disconnect between the regents and the students,” said current student regent Ben Allen, who will be stepping down from the position June 30.
Allen, a law school student at UC Berkeley was, along with several other regents, part of the nominating committee that selected Bernal.
“[Bernal] had many strong suits coming to the table,” Allen said. “Among a number of other experiences, he spent a year of being very heavily involved with the [University of California Students Association].”
Bernal has been working at University of California Santa Barbara as a special programs manager in the office of summer sessions coordinating high school outreach and academic programs for high school students throughout the country. In addition, he has been working with the UC Student Association promoting student interests to the board.
“He was going before the regents making proposals, conducting research and investigations on the budget, and generally … partaking in many important responsibilities required of a student regent,” Allen said. “I think he’ll really be able to hit the ground running.”
Bernal, a second generation Mexican American, grew up in south Texas, and is a first generation college student currently enrolled in the Givertz Graduate school of Education at UCSB.
“What has prepared me for this position is actually being directly affected by many of the challenges students in our university and public schools everywhere face,” Bernal said in an e-mail interview.
Bernal worked full time while attending school, and dropped out twice, once as an undergraduate and once in graduate school.
“Serving on the board of regents, you are able to direct and advise policy at the highest level of the UC and therefore direct education policy across the state and country because the UC is a leading institution of education,” Bernal said.
Bernal plans to focus on expanding the idea of diversity, specifically regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students as well as LGBT students of color, and addressing issues of tuition affordability.
“Student fees at the UC have increased drastically over the last seven years, and, given the current state budget crisis, prioritizing education in this state does not seem to be happening,” Bernal said.
Former student regent Allen was impressed with Bernal’s ability to interact with both students and regents with equal ease, as well as his ability to successfully balance advocacy and pragmatism, Allen said.
“He’s got a real amenable personality and he’s a very good negotiator,” he said.
Though student regents are not officially designated as representatives of the student body, they are selected from a pool of applicants from the UC Student Association, a group dedicated to promoting student interests in the UC.
“When considering the student regent, [we] look at candidate’s experience and skill as an advocate for students and for the university as a whole,” said Ray Austin, University Affairs Director and staff member of the UC Student Association Student Regent Nominating Committee in an e-mail interview.
Issues that have traditionally been addressed by student regents involving the implementation of Diversity Report’s recommendations, lowering student fees, financial aid to undocumented students and better loan practices for graduate students, Austin said.
CHARLES HINRIKSSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.