What, exactly, is a student doing on the UW’s highest governing board? Lots, as it turns out. In a recent interview, Will Rasmussen, ’02, the 2005-06 UW student regent, sheds some light on what it means to be the youngest member of such an august body.
Rasmussen credits his service as president of his fraternity, his involvement in ASUW and the UW lnterfraternity Council, and his continuing connections with UW students with helping him make meaningful contributions to the venerable organization that is the Board of Regents.
What interested you first in the position of student regent?
Well, at the time, I’d been around the University for six years and been involved in many different ways—the student government and the Greek system—and I knew I’d gotten a lot from this school and learned a lot from it, and I wanted to keep trying to give something back.
What do you do to keep in touch with the students you are supposed to represent?
I’ve tried to structure my time this year to really keep myself entrenched in student sentiment … informal dinners or fireside chats with student leaders … or just playing basketball if I get the chance. I think that helps me maintain the perspective I want to bring to the Board of Regents.
Do you think having been an undergraduate at the UW has given you a broader base of knowledge to draw upon?
Absolutely …. We’re lucky at the University of Washington; our overlap is great. Nine of our 10 regents are University alumni.
How do you fit into the power balance, being the only student on the board?
It’s a group of 10 people and you’re voting. That said, from my experience the regents make most of their decisions—not all, but most—by consensus. There’s group discussion, and we kind of work around until everyone pretty much agrees that this is going to be our course of action. That framework, I think, helps empower the student regent more. In issues that come up that are directly related to student life and student well-being, I have more authority than the other regents, and they’ll often ask me for my perspective.
This is a relatively new position. How do you think it has made an impact on UW policy?
I’m sure it’s made a significant impact …. Just having a student there helps remind the other regents of why the University exists, what it is the University hopes to accomplish and what it is that makes the University great. I’ve had at least three of the other regents come up and say that the student position does just that: It reminds everybody of back when they were a student.
What’s your favorite policy that you’ve helped push through?
I was really happy that we were able to pass our holistic admissions policy. That’s something that I really believe will make the University stronger. The lifeblood of this school is the caliber of students we bring in, and I wholeheartedly believe that this new system we put together will help bring in the highest-caliber students. The other thing that sticks out in my mind is the graduate and professional, non-state student tuition rates. I felt like the school and the Board of Regents recognized that recruiting the best students required making tuition a little more affordable to this group.
Do you think your age sets you apart from the other regents?
One time some of the regents asked me for advice on how to hook up their. .. what’re those Apple things called?
Yeah, how to hook up their iPods to their computers, and I said, “Hey, I don’t even have an iPod.”
Wouldn’t it make you feel a little awkward that these people, who are decades older than you, are more technologically advanced than you?
I have resigned myself to the fact that some of the regents are way more hip than I am and could ever hope to be.
Have you ever tried to introduce them to a little more student culture, like get them on Facebook?
I’ve challenged some regents to come down and play me at basketball at the IMA, but none have taken me up on that offer, although I understand Bill [Gates] used to play a little back in the day. They claim, you know, that they may get hurt or something, but I think they know they can’t handle my crossover.