Auriana Mitchell brings a youthful perspective to Eastern’s 130-year-old governing body.
Beginning in the 1970s, the nation’s higher education governing boards gradually began to acknowledge that student voices deserved a place at the table. Though the state of Washington was a little late to the game, for just over two decades its regional university boards — among them Eastern’s Board of Trustees — have welcomed a student representative, approved by the governor, to “bring a student voice and perspective” to universities’ governing panels. This years’ EWU Board of Trustees student representative is Auriana Mitchell, a 19-year-old Cheney resident who, thanks to her participation in EWU’s Running Start program, is already nearing completion of a Bachelor of Science degree in data analytics. Her answers have been edited to fit this space.
What’s on the minds of your fellow Eastern students?
Every single person that you ask would probably have a different, if maybe similar, response to that. I personally have spent a lot of time trying to understand who we are as Eastern, academically speaking. One of the really important things for me as a student trustee is advocating for the programs that we students want and need; not only those programs that benefit us today, but also those that will help us be successful in the future.
Are you confident that we’re headed in the right direction?
After we made some program cuts last year, I had some concerns. But one of the things that Dr. May [Eastern’s interim President David May] is keen on is not only evaluating program offerings based on fiscal measures, but also what makes the most sense for us students. So that’s something I’ve really gotten on board with, and tried to learn more about.
How do you see yourself interacting with your fellow trustees?
The public meetings are pretty structured… I do get involved in conversations, but I generally try to keep my comments to either, “How is this helping students?” or “Are we keeping students at the center of this?” As far as less formal interactions, there is a little bit of an age gap between me and the other trustees, so it’s not like we’re going to the bars together or anything. I do have their cell phone numbers.
What about your communications with campus groups, particularly those advocating for underrepresented students?
I think it’s my job to seek [underrepresented] students out to make sure they are getting what they need. It’s really about talking to people, hearing what they’re involved in and saying, “Hey, that’s really cool. Can I come to your next meeting?” Seriously, I don’t want anyone on campus to see me as someone who they can’t approach. This will be my fourth year here; I’ve had three on-campus jobs. I know this place. I love this place. Just generally being part of the family here is the best thing I can do, because then I can be sure I know what’s going on, and can be plugged in with everyone.