The Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees (PACT) held a regional meeting at SRU on Tuesday to discuss student trustee recruitment.
One concern of PACT is students’ awareness of who they are and what they do – or lack thereof.
Jeff Smith, Slippery Rock trustee and PACT president, explained that one of his hopes is to develop a working relationship with student media, The Rocket in particular, to expand the Council of Trustees’ reach and engage with the student body, along with “enticing” students to become a student trustee.
“Outreach to any student organization, especially those that have the ability to gain somewhat private information, is an excellent way to get stories out to the general public,” Tree Zuzzio, the Clarion University student trustee, said.
Zuzzio recommended working closely with the Student Government Association (SGA) and University Program Board (UPB) because they generally have a large social media following and could be another route to get available information to students.
According to Zuzzio, there is a “disconnect” between what student trustees do and the governance of universities, but he has been actively searching for a way to remedy this disconnect.
One way to raise student awareness, Zuzzio said, is to engage with them and show them that student leadership is something they should be involved in.
“Students who recognize and discuss these issues have the potential to become great student leaders,” Zuzzio said. “The student trustee position in particular provides an excellent opportunity for these students to take the next step in resolving the problems they see.”
J.D. Dunbar, Clarion’s trustee chairperson, explained that in order to better understand why there is such disconnect between students and PACT, they must identify the problem and study student culture.
“We need to use the voices of our student trustees,” Dunbar said, “to better inform us of practices that will mitigate this lack of information about trusteeship and student service.”
Zuzzio defined himself as an advocate and ambassador for both the Council of Trustees and the student body. He added that students have come to him with a variety of issues including parking, food quality, housing costs, minority student service and student engagement, among many others.
Zuzzio is a senior double-major in business management and political science, both of which play an important part in his role as student trustee. He said his position within the Council of Trustees has influenced how he pictures his future, adding that he is personally concerned with environmental issues, poverty and social justice.
“This has really helped hone in my leadership skills,” Zuzzio said. “I’ve developed my ability to effectively communicate with people and work with others and find solutions to problems presented to me by a variety of individuals.
“Administratively, it’s very important to have student input in all decisions being made on campus,” Zuzzio said.
The Trustees said they are hopeful for the future of this position. Zuzzio said that the entire Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is on the right trajectory and added that he sees enthusiasm and involvement consistently across the council and student body.
Zuzzio and Slippery Rock Student Trustee Dylan Colcombe – along with other trustees from Slippery Rock, Clarion, Indiana, Edinboro and California universities – encourage all students to take part in student leadership and learn more about their university’s student trustee position.
Zuzzio said student trustees are considered with the same regard as other trustees, which has allowed him to develop into a better student leader.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up,” Zuzzio said, “but remember that you have to come from a point of understanding as well. You have to be willing to have a conversation.”