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Saint Mary’s student trustee speaks on role, representing the student body

| Monday, November 15, 2021

During each spring semester, Saint Mary’s opens up applications for the student board of trustee position for the upcoming year. The application is open to any junior — who in the fall would be an incoming senior. An applicant is chosen in the spring as the incoming student trustee from the senior class. The student trustee is a full voting member of the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees and serves as a delegate and student representative on the board.

Senior psychology and environmental studies major Eliana Sanchez is the 2021-2022 student trustee and sat down with The Observer to speak on the logistics of her role and how it has been serving as the student trustee during a non-traditional year.

Speaking to the role itself — what it means to be the student trustee and what it entitles — Sanchez spoke about her place on the board as a full voting member and being the student voice during meetings.

“As the student trustee, I am a full voting member on Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees, and so what I do is I’m the student voice,” Sanchez said. “To put simply, being the student trustee means that’s I’m just a student representative on the board of trustees, so I represent student concerns, and student opinions, essentially, on issues that are touched on during the meeting.” 

Unlike previous years, Sanchez took up many more roles and responsibilities that a trustee would have normally assumed, given that the Inauguration of President Conboy was finally being planned and scheduled for the fall of 2021.

“So I am on different committees, and I serve as the student voice in those committees and in the big general executive board meetings … then under that, I just also do various different things for the College, and whatever is appointed to me,” Sanchez said. “This year, I was asked to be on another committee — I was asked to lead the student event committee for inauguration week. I felt, in some sense, overwhelmed by everything I was planning on happening before we actually made recorded logistical plans.”

Looking back now, about a month after the Inauguration of President Conboy, Sanchez is left feeling accomplished and with a new appreciation of the campus community.

“I can tell you that after the inauguration, now that it’s over, I feel empowered in a sense because I feel like I actually got to know who President Conboy was and what she actually stood for and what her vision is for the Saint Mary’s community,” she said.

Sanchez spoke about importance of the role she holds and what it means to her.

“I feel very grateful to have this position, providing me with a lot of insight on how the College operates,” Sanchez said. “I have been involved in various student clubs and groups throughout my three years here at Saint Mary’s and so this kind of gave me a new perspective on how I view the College. So I feel very honored and grateful to be put in this position and to be connected with so many people who care about the College.”

She elaborated more on the impact this position has had on her perspective on the College, especially given her past student leadership and initiatives to create a more welcoming, equitable and diverse community on campus.

“The groups that I have worked with the past few years have all dealt in some way or another with diversity, equity, inclusion and just creating a better campus community for those students,” Sanchez said. “And so I felt very honored and very grateful to be able to represent multicultural, diverse and underrepresented students on the board and their experiences as well.”

As for her decision to apply, Sanchez noted she had not considered applying at the beginning of her junior year.

“I had no intention to be the student trustee, like that was not my end goal,” Sanchez said. “My reason for applying was just that as I saw myself, move up through student groups and participate in different roles, I saw that there was a need to express certain concerns on an institutional and structural level.”

Having served in different leadership roles, all focused on working hands on with students and programming events that cater to students, Sanchez said it was time to take up a different role that would allow her to take those experiences and present them to the institution. 

“So I thought this was the right opportunity for me to voice these concerns. And I feel very passionate about the things that I have experienced throughout my years here, and I wanted to effectively communicate that to people who made a quote on quote decisions and to the school,” Sanchez said. “I just felt passionate about my experience here at Saint Mary’s, and what I thought was lacking and what I thought needed to be said.”

 When applications opened in the spring of 2021, Sanchez applied, so she could share her experiences as a student of color. 

“As a student of color, you often think that your voice is not being heard and your concerns aren’t being heard appropriately,” Sanchez said. “And I figured, as I have had these experiences, and I have worked towards these issues, the only way I could really voice my concerns is at the top level.”

Sanchez explained that she did not realize how much the Board would value her opinion.

“My idea of who the board is, and what they believe in has definitely changed since participating in these events, and taking up this role,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t think I was gonna have as big of a role as I did or as big of an opinion as I did. I didn’t think that my opinion or what I thought was going to be actively sought after.”

Sanchez lastly spoke on her goals for the rest of her time in this role, and what she wishes to accomplish in her time as the student trustee.

“My main goal, moving forward is to improve the communication between the Board of Trustees and students,” Sanchez said. “Because as I said before, my opinion of the board was that it was that they were a group of decision-makers on issues that directly impact the experiences of students on campus.” 

Sanchez said she plans to inform students about the good things that occur at Board of Trustee meetings in the future.

“I think that a lot of good comes out of the Board of Trustees meetings that we don’t hear about or isn’t communicated to students well, and so one of the things that I’ve been talking about doing and plan on doing is to talk about the progress and work happening at these meetings,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez is excited to work on an initiative that would allow for some type of chain of communication between the board and students, maybe even something as simple as an Instagram page with posts giving updates.

“These are important decisions getting made, and students should know what those decisions are.”

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