Hope Churchill would look at her Ball State Outlook email to see the same pinned message.
“Apply for Student Trustee Position” appeared in the subject of the email.
The Student Trustee sits on the Ball State Board of Trustees, acting as a student voice in the so-called “room where it happens.”
The board, which is made up of nine members — six members appointed at-large, two alumni, and one current student — is the governing body and sets the strategic direction of the university.
Churchill, a third-year business administration major, has been constantly involved in extracurricular activities since high school, but she didn’t feel like the student trustee position would be something she would be interested in.
After a conversation with her mom, the Lake Village, Ind. native decided to apply for the position.
“She said to me, that sounds really cool,” Churchill said. “You should go to one of the information sessions before you decide [if] you're going to apply or not.”
Heeding her mother’s advice, she went to one of the information sessions with then-current Student Trustee Amy Wyse. Wyse, like Churchill, was in the Miller College of Business as a double major in economics and international business.
“I ended up being the only person there which was a bummer,” Churchill said. “But [it was] also really good for me because I got to ask some more personal in-depth questions.”
After applying for the position, Churchill went through a three-round process for the position. Following the first round interview with officials from Ball State, Churchill then did her second and third round interviews with the Governor’s office. Michael Nossett, deputy general counsel to the Governor, called the student trustee position “unique” in the makeup of a university’s board of trustees.
“We want somebody who gets the weight of that position,” Nossett said. “But we want somebody who cares about the university, and who's able to give the time it needs but also remembers, oh, yeah, I'm still a student here.”
Except for Ivy Tech Community College, all the state universities in Indiana have a student trustee on their university’s governing body. All the public universities hold their interviews for the student trustee positions at the same time (except Vincennes University).
Nossett said this year’s pool of applicants was the largest he had seen working for Gov. Holcomb, with more than 20 applicants initially applying. By law, the list of candidates must be narrowed down to ten applicants for the second round, and then three for the final round of interviews.
After several rounds of interviews, Churchill was announced as the student trustee for Ball State University by Governor Eric Holcomb in June. Churchill will be serving in this position for two years.
For Ball State, the student trustee must be a resident of Indiana and have a 2.5 or better grade point average at the time of the application. The position includes $50 for each meeting and Commencement attended, a 10% discount at the Ball State bookstore, and an all-access parking pass, among many things.
Nossett said the position of student trustee at public Indiana universities is one will full voting power “with just as much say as anyone else on the board.”
This gives students who is selected for the position at their schools an opportunity to understand university governance and how to be a productive member of a group.
“They're the expert as far as what student life is like,” Nossett said. “They bring that perspective of a ‘boots on the ground’ person, of somebody who is there at the university, living out the decisions that the board and the university leadership are making.”
Churchill called enrolling at Ball State the best decision she has ever made, even though Ball State was not her first choice.e. Originally considering Ball State a backup, Churchill’s cousin convinced her to visit Ball State. After that visit, she fell in love with the campus.
“What I'm really passionate about is just helping other people,” Churchill said. “That's why I'm so excited [about] the trustee position because I get to really make a difference for all the students and having that student voice will help make those strategic decisions that the Board of Trustees make even better for, not only the students, but all the faculty and everyone in the Ball State and Muncie community.”
Over this summer, Churchill was able to get to meet several members of the Board of Trustees and get to understand more about being on the board. Renae Conley, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, said she sees a positive term for Churchill on the board.
“She was very engaged,” Conley said. “...She listened a lot, but when she had a perspective, she offered it. I can tell she will be a really good trustee.”
Conley, like Nossett, sees a lot of positives that the student trustee position brings to the board as a whole. She says student trustees “brings to the board… this perspective that we just can't have” as alumni and brings insight to how changes will impact the students.
She also noted that having an undergraduate student on the board also helps the student in the position understand how governance works.
“The experience of being on a board and understanding governance…is a great learning opportunity,” she said.
Churchill’s goals for her term as student trustee are to make sure she stands up for her fellow students in a good way and to engage in more conversations with students about university governance and how changes happen within the university. She also hopes to learn how to be present in conversations and become comfortable enough to talk.
She knows that she won’t be able to meet and talk to all of Ball State’s around 20,000 students, she wants to be able to represent those people she has never talked to or met to the best of her ability.
“We [the students] have the same thing in common,” Churchill said. “Ball State is our home.”
Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at Grayson.firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @GraysonMJoslin.