There’s more to our student liaison than the suit

By Katie Wolf

Student Congress president and vice president; Student Programming Board chair; Student organization executive board; I can guarantee that nearly every student reading this article has a good idea of what these campus leadership positions are and maybe even what they entail.

Now give this one a try:

student liaison to the board of trustees.

Heard of it?

In my two years as student liaison, many haven’t. When asked why I’m wearing a business suit during lunch in the Vandenberg Cafeteria — a must-wear on board of trustees meeting days — the first response I usually get is an enthusiastic, “Great!” followed closely by a perplexed, “… what do you do?”

How thoughtful of you to ask! Curious souls, step forward: I would be happy to explain.

The board of trustees, OU’s official governing body, meets regularly throughout the year to discuss and decide upon financial, academic and legislative university affairs.

As a student liaison, attending each of these meetings is a requirement. However, the word “attend” is used loosely since student liaisons are not part of the audience. Rather, they sit with the university vice presidents and even have their own microphones so they can provide, ideally, unbiased cross-sections of student views and opinions throughout the meetings.

The position, though unpaid, is as close to a legitimate professional internship an OU student can get.

Liaisons actively interact with the OU administration and the seven-member board of trustees, all whom are well-respected and experienced leaders in their individual fields. They prepare formal reports on student activities to present to the board, communicate student concerns, and relay board of trustees and administrative activities relevant to students to the local media, Student Congress, and other student organizations.

Business suit? Make that a double check.

Don’t let this unofficial job description intimidate you. Acting as student liaison to the board of trustees is a rare opportunity for a student to make a tangible difference for the OU community while working independently of, yet in cooperation with, a large organization like Student Congress or SPB.

I’ve found the position to be one of the most flexible and richly rewarding leadership opportunities OU offers.

Concrete requirements such as those I’ve mentioned above do exist, but what one chooses to do with the esteem the student liaison position brings and the abundant networking opportunities presented along with it is entirely up to them.

The recently launched Bike Share program was the brainchild of a former student liaison. My fellow liaison, Corey Schmidt, has made it a priority to emphasize to students the reliability and approachability of student liaisons as informational links.

I’ve spent my time in the post promoting more interaction between the administration and students. For example, an informal forum about the OU William Beaumont School of Medicine was hosted between the provost and pre-medical students. We also encourage students to attend more board of trustees meetings.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that being liaison has its additional perks. I have attended black-tie galas and mingled with newly-elected House representatives at Meadow Brook Hall.

To me, though, even these “benefits” are considerably overshadowed by the opportunity I have had to forge meaningful relationships with the upper administration, staff and student leaders of Oakland University.

Are you a current or potential student leader? The positions Mr. Schmidt and I have held are now available for the next generation of student liaisons.

Don’t miss your chance to become a valuable connection between university leadership and your fellow students!

Please visit the OU board of trustees website or the Dean of Students office by March 31, 2010 for more information, qualifications and an application to apply.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to major in political science, public affairs or the like to become student liaison. I’m a biology major, and I can assure you that the knowledge I have gained firsthand about leadership, the political process, major fiscal decision-making and university operations will still be indispensable for any future experiences I may have.

As for the rest of you … you can still come to the Elliott Hall Auditorium to observe the several board of trustees meetings left this semester!