Brian Haley is one of 10 students stepping into a new position on each the state public universities' Boards of Regents.
By Laura Heinauer
Nice is getting free tickets to the University of Texas women's basketball game, a permit that lets you park anywhere on any UT campus and Lenox china for drinking your bottled water.
But getting ribbed by UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof for your tie, law school advice from a former president of the State Bar of Texas and a phone call asking for approval to set graduation rate goals is even better.
New Regent Brian Haley said those have got to be some of the more amazing perks of entering the inner sanctum of the UT Board of Regents, an honor that comes only from the Texas governor. Haley, the system's first student regent, joined the board for its meetings Wednesday and Thursday.
"It was extremely humbling just to know that students worked for so long — 30 years — to get this position created," Haley said. "The responsibility that comes with it I'm deeply aware of, and I'm excited about seeing this position evolve."
Haley's assignment comes after the Legislature in 2005 passed a bill that allows student appointments to each of the state's 10 public university boards of regents. The students, who cannot vote and don't count toward a quorum, serve one-year terms. Haley's term expires on Feb. 1, 2007.
A former UT Student Government president, Haley said he hopes that one day the student regent will have a vote. But his first priority is to set a high bar for the students who come after him.
"My main goal is that I'm engaged in conversations going on with the board, that the other members of the board know to contact me when they have questions about student concerns and that we really start looking at issues, even more so, from the student perspective," he said. "I think that it will be a good experience for me as a student and them as a regent to interact and see what collaboration comes out of that."
Haley's family lives in Denton, in North Texas, but his perspective is that of a world traveler. His passport includes stamps from Russia, Zambia, Brazil and India.
Haley said the person he looks up to most is his former high school English teacher, Bryan Bunselmeyer.
"He always was challenging us to rethink our own ideas," Haley said, ". . . to look past ourselves and to look past Denton, Texas, to really get a global perspective on how things really are in the rest of the world."
Now, this first-year law student who wears his hair in crew cut, speaks Mandarin Chinese and votes Republican is sitting on the board that's responsible for approving new buildings, overseeing the agency that manages university investments and setting student tuition. Haley, 24, said he wants to use his law degree for international business.
"I found Brian to be smart, thoughtful and engaged," said Regent Colleen McHugh, the past State Bar of Texas president who sat next to Haley during last week's meeting. The two whispered back and forth on a few occasions. "Some of our discussions were not about University of Texas business but rather about being a lawyer. He has a global perspective about education I much admire, and I look forward to working with him."
His suggestion that student input be included in proposed plans requiring schools to meet national average graduation rates was probably his most significant contribution during last week's meeting. At an upcoming meeting, he'll be involved in the discussion about how much to raise tuition rates.
While student government president, Haley said he was against a decision by the state Legislature to hand over tuition authority to university presidents. Having been a part of the new tuition-setting process, Haley now says it was a good move. He said deregulation really is in the best interests of students despite the heavier financial burden. At this point, many of his fellow students don't seem to know what being on the Board of Regents means, he said. Even his family has trouble understanding this new world he's now become a part of, where meetings are held in grand rooms with golden chandeliers and ornate carpets and his colleagues include the wives of former governors.
"I'm still trying to explain to them," he said.
One thing students have asked Haley is whether he can score them some football tickets this fall.
"I've had to say I can't do that," he said with a laugh.
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GETTING TO KNOW . . .
Position: Student regent, University of Texas System
Education: Bachelor's in government with a minor in Asian studies, UT-Austin, 2004; working toward UT law degree, expected May 2008.
Experience: Worked for Dell Inc. in China, Public Strategies Inc., the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Rep. John Carter of Round Rock and Salomon Smith Barney. Volunteered in India, Zambia, Brazil and Russia.
Worth noting: Serves as the vice chairman of the Texas Union Board of Directors and as a Texas Exes Advocate for Higher Education; serves on Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's Leadership 20/20 Committee.
UT Law Congratulates Student Regent Brian J. Haley: http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2006/020306_haley.html