Gov. Doug Ducey appointed 35 new members to boards and commissions around the state last Friday, including Nikhil Dave, who was appointed to a student regent position on the Arizona Board of Regents.
ABOR is a governing body presiding over Arizona's three public universities. A student regent is responsible for representing students on the board, asking questions on behalf of diverse student populations and eventually casting votes to pass or reject policy that would then trickle down to various aspects of student life.
Dave, a junior studying neuroscience and innovation in society, will spend his first year on the board learning procedures, finding ways to reach out to students and leveraging organizations already advocating for student interests.
"I'm getting a chance to put myself out there and I get a chance to hear perspectives from students I haven't met yet or heard from," Dave said. He wants to spend the first year on the board connecting with as many student groups as possible.
Larry Penley, ABOR chair, offered congratulations in a press release after Dave's appointment and said student regents are essential as "they bring the student perspective to our proceedings through their experiences and interactions with their peers."
For his first year on the board, Dave will be a non-voting member. Student regents are on the board for two-year terms that are staggered so two students are on the board at a time, only one with the power to vote.
"What I'm really looking forward to in this first year is really using it as a learning year where I can synthesize all the new information that will be thrown at me and prepare myself well to make an impact during that second year," Dave said.
Dave said he hasn't had a chance to talk to most of the other regents as his appointment is still new, but he said he looks forward to getting through the paperwork stage.
Upon appointment, Ducey addressed the presence of the new coronavirus in Arizona, writing in a press release that "even in a pandemic, we need to keep our civic processes moving forward and ensure government is fulfilling its responsibility to its citizens."
The other student regent, Anthony Rusk, is a senior at UA studying politics, philosophy, economics and law. This year he has the power to vote and is hoping to guide Dave through his first year, a process Rusk described as "drinking from a firehose."
Rusk said the relationship between the student regents is a partnership with a lot of accountability required. With a year of being on the board under his belt already, Rusk explained meetings with student body presidents at each school is a "really effective way of understanding the student body in a bottom-up method."
"COVID-19 might be a little bit of an obstacle in terms of really going out and getting the student perspective, so that's something I'm actively trying to navigate through," Dave said.
But in the "Zoom-era," Rusk said, meeting with students as a member of ABOR is easier now than it was in previous semesters. In order to meet with other regents and student groups, Rusk said he would have to drive to Phoenix about once a week, which is no longer part of his routine.
Dave is involved in ASU's Luminosity Lab, a research and development initiative of selected students. Dave explained students of all backgrounds, across a number of disciplines, work together to use technology to solve problems.
Rachel Levinson, executive director of national research initiatives at ASU, first met Dave at the Luminosity Lab. She describes him as a curious and ambitious self-starter with the ability to make complex projects and policies understandable for those who are unfamiliar.
"He is respectful in terms of presenting ideas that he has but in a way that is open-minded to criticism or to suggestion," Levinson said.
While research is the main aspect of his involvement in the lab, Dave said interacting with a number of his peers he would have never known otherwise, broadened his perspective on student issues.
Dave is also involved in Greek Life, a niche group he says gives him unique context and experience for understanding and potentially solving student concerns.
Sean Dudley leads the research technology office and is a graduate student studying human and social dimensions of science and technology. He has previously mentored Dave and said his uncommon, adaptive and inquisitive way of thinking was refreshing.
"(Dave's) appointment just ensures the idea that people of all ages are being taken seriously," Dudley said.
Apart from being on the board and learning how to best converse with the peers he represents, Dave said he hopes to spread awareness of ABOR, its responsibilities and duties and make himself available.
"There's a lot of complexity involved in the public university system and there's a lot of stakeholders involved," Dave said. "Getting a chance to learn about all of those stakeholders, including of course, and most importantly, the students, is what I'm most excited for."
Piper Hansen is a digital managing editor at The State Press. She is a reporting intern at the Arizona Capitol Times. Outside the newsroom, you can find her backpacking in Kentucky or working at summer camp.