Representing students

“Well, here goes nothing,” Brett Morgan repeated to himself on his way into the boardroom for his very first meeting as the student member on the board of trustees of Oregon State University. He took a deep breath and put one foot firmly in front of the other.

Brett Morgan

Morgan had read the profiles of his fellow board members, 14 people who have had successful careers in areas like business, law and higher education longer than he’s even been alive. As the student tasked with representing the voices of 30,592 Oregon State students in Corvallis, Bend, Newport and online, he wanted to do his best.

Morgan’s feelings of nervousness and intimidation were quickly put aside as the board got down to the business of governing Oregon State University and guiding its mission to serve the state and its citizens in a dynamic global economy. The student member has the same speaking and voting rights as every other trustee on the board, and Morgan’s fellow trustees made him feel welcomed and valued.

“They ask a lot of questions to try to gain my insight and perspective,” Morgan says. “They really want to hear what I think and what it’s like to be a student. I think the board really respects the student seat.”

Brett Morgan

Morgan applied for the student trustee position in the spring of 2015 through the Associated Students of Oregon State University, where he also serves as a senator. An ASOSU committee prepared a short list of names for Governor Kate Brown, and from that list, Brown selected Morgan. His appointment was confirmed by a state senate subcommittee in October 2015, and his term runs through June 2017.

The board requires members to attend an in-person meeting once per quarter and to stay informed on relevant issues. The board discusses and makes decisions about a variety of topics, including new degree programs, university-wide initiatives and investment policies.

Morgan says he’s a good fit for the student seat on the board of trustees because he’s a typical Oregon State student. Outside of his work on the board, he works hard in class, participates in extracurricular activities on campus, and in his spare time he enjoys getting outside for a hike or staying put on the couch to binge-watch a season or two of his favorite TV shows on Netflix.

Because of his involvement in student government, Morgan says many people assume he majors in political science. Instead, he studies economics and environmental sciences with a policy option, crediting his wilderness experience as an Eagle Scout for inspiring him to love and care for the natural world around him.

Morgan wants to someday influence environmental policy working for a government agency, nonprofit or think tank, and he says his education at Oregon State is preparing him for that. Thanks to a wide variety of academic programs — and majors in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences — Morgan can study hard science in one classroom and then discuss the same topics in a much more theoretical or policy sense right next door. He says his service on the board of trustees is teaching him how to make decisions in the real world.

Brett Morgan

“Sometimes there’s not one right or wrong answer,” he says. “It’s about picking the best option for the people you’re representing and the university.”

While there’s only one student spot on the board of trustees, Morgan encourages his fellow students to get involved in whatever appeals to them personally.

“Oregon State has so much to offer students,” he says. “I would encourage new students to get involved in whatever interests them regardless of how niche or weird it is. If you love it, keep doing it because Oregon State can help that passion grow and help you make it into something great.”

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