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On a large wooden stage, four trustees and a student sit in wooden chairs facing an audience for a Q&A-style discussion.

Sacred Heart University hosted a town hall meeting with members of the Board of Trustees. Featured on the panel were Frank Martire, John Vazquez and Pamela Miller. The event, held in the Schine Auditorium, was moderated by students Alejandro Ramos and Mia Sansanelli.

Tracy Deer-Mirek/Sacred Heart University

At any higher ed institution, the Board of Trustees assists college leadership with critical decision-making and guidance on the institution’s future—as well as providing direct support to move in that direction. While they may encounter students along the way, the work of trustees is distant—or hidden completely—from students and their lives as learners.

But trustees need not operate out of sight. Inside Higher Ed gathered four different ways an institution can create relationships between the student population and the Board of Trustees and promote student success.

  1. Add student voices to the board

Student government representatives often work alongside the board, whether that’s sharing student ideas, presenting measures or engaging in fundraising events.

Hamilton College in New York, however, has a dozen students who participate on its Board of Trustee committees.

As committee members, students can voice their opinions and advocate for their peers to inform (although not participate in) trustee votes. Student representatives serve on committees covering buildings and grounds, academic affairs, student affairs, advancement, enrollment, and budget, among others.

The University of New England goes one step farther and invites two students each year to serve as full voting members, attending every regular meeting. Student trustees are selected by a committee of their peers and administrators.

  1. Host a panel series

For many students, the role of the trustees is unfamiliar. To provide students with education and engagement around trustee work, Sacred Heart University in Connecticut created a panel discussion series called Meet the Trustees.

Board members at a recent event attended by 25 students provided updates about university plans and shared career advice and insight. Students were also encouraged to ask questions and network with trustees to learn more about their own career aspirations.

  1. Involve trustees in academics

Trustees can share their wide breadth of knowledge with students directly in their academic lives, as well.

Each January, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania hosts two-week professional development courses, J-term, which offer four levels of career advice for students depending on their grade level. Trustees have participated in J-term, offering advice around college, careers and life in general. One recent event featured trustees teaching leadership skills.

  1. Offer career connections

Trustees, as career professionals, can also offer key connections for students in networking and internship opportunities.

Trustees from Hope College in Michigan participate in DiscoverWork, a job shadowing program for first- and second-year students, and are members of the college’s networking site.

At Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, trustees serve as career mentors to juniors and seniors, intentionally selected by the administration to offer insight into job opportunities and future goals.

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