Maria Kerford calls her time as student curator on the University of Missouri Board of Curators a “transformative experience.”

It was 2005, and she was 23 years old. She was a senior majoring in English in the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri–St. Louis when she was selected to serve a two-year term. She enrolled in a graduate certificate program in public policy during her second year on the board.

“I learned how UMSL operated, how the University of Missouri System operated and the relationships between the four campuses,” Kerford said.

Tuition rates had skyrocketed leading up to Kerford’s tenure on the board. She couldn’t wait to give the student side of that debate.

“As a student, the increases were really hard on us. I felt I was being squeezed,” she said. “After seeing the other side of the story, it was almost harder. I knew how difficult it was to offer a high-quality education that’s affordable. Those values are at times in conflict with each other. It is not an easy issue.”

Over the next few months, another UMSL student will be chosen to sit on the board of curators, the governing board of the UM System.

The prestigious student representative position on the board of curators rotates every two years to one of the four campuses within the system. The student will serve on the 2014-2016 term. The application and and important dates can be found here.

“The person holding this position plays a crucial role in voicing students’ interests at the highest level of system governance,” said D’Andre Braddix, assistant dean of students at UMSL. “He or she will participate in events, networking and decision making that affects more than 75,000 students across the four campuses.”

An open forum will be held Sept. 9 with Bennett Felton, president of UMSL’s Student Government Association, Corbin Evans, executive director of Associated Students of the University of Missouri and Kristofferson Culmer, chair of the Intercampus Student Council. The application deadline is Sept. 13.

Three rounds of interviews will be held with candidates in September and October resulting in three candidate names being submitted to Gov. Jay Nixon in December. The governor will appoint the student representative to the board.

“We are looking for students who can maintain a sense of professionalism, the ability to manage a full-time academic load as well as the time necessary for this position,” said Felton, who as president of the SGA, will be managing the student curator application process.

Wayne Goode, current chairman of the board of curators and former state senator and state representative, calls the opportunity “a great plus” for a student’s education.

“As a representative of all students you are obligated to get the views of students on each campus,” Goode said. “You listen to them and get their point of view and then participate in dialogue with the board.”

The student curator does not have a vote, but Goode said there are very few things decided by one vote.

“Generally, the board reaches consensus and moves forward,” he said.

Kerford, now philanthropy adviser and relationship manager at Youthbridge Community Foundation in St. Louis, said one of the most important pieces of advice she can offer to students interested in the student curator position is to know your fellow students.

“Your influence lies in the power of your networks,” Kerford said.

She built coalitions as a member of student organizations such as the student senate, and the ISC, and learned about budgets as a student member of UMSL’s Budget and Planning Committee.

“I really wanted to help the university in any way I could,” Kerford said. “Serving on the board broadened my perspective on education and it was fun.”

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel