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UC Board of Regents opens 2025-2026 student regent application

The Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center is pictured. The UC Board of Regents opened the application to become the 2025-2026 student regent. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Vivian Stein

Jan. 17, 2024 10:56 p.m.

The UC Board of Regents opened its application to become the 2025-2026 student regent.

The selected student regent will serve next year for a one-year, nonvoting term as regent-designate, which is followed by a one-year, full-voting term through 2026. The regent represents the student bodies across all 10 UC campuses, and UC undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply, with the deadline being March 11.

The first two roles of the student regent listed on the application flier are representing the UC’s 294,000 students as a voting member and influencing a variety of policies regarding students’ experiences. All tuition and fees for the selected regent will be waived, and they earn a stipend while serving on the board.

Merhawi Tesfai, the 2023-2024 student regent, said he had previously been involved in representing different student groups at the Luskin School of Public Affairs and he heard about the student regent opportunity from a peer.

“What inspired me was just to represent students who I think aren’t traditionally represented in this space,” said Tesfai, who is also a doctoral student in social welfare at UCLA. “I felt this was a way to really continue that work and represent a lot of underrepresented student needs on a systemwide level.”

Tesfai represents UC students alongside the 2023-2024 UC student regent-designate Josiah Beharry, a UC Merced interdisciplinary humanities doctoral student, who will also serve as the 2024-2025 student regent.

Beharry is the first student representative from UC Merced to serve on the board. He said since UC Merced represents the highest first-generation student population and is one of the highest UC campuses in diversity, he was inspired to apply.

“I really wanted to just gain more experience and also bring my own backgrounds and my own intersectional identities into a role that I think would’ve contributed all students like me,” Beharry said.

Beharry described the initial application process as similar to a college application, with letters of recommendation and essays. Upon advancement to the application’s second round, potential regents are interviewed by the UC Student Association and the UC Graduate and Professional Council. The third round consists of interviews with the UC regents and staff members from the UC Office of the President, among others.

Beharry said interviews involve questions about the UC system, the applicant’s background and what perspectives they can bring that others have not brought in the past.

“It’s a process like no other,” Beharry said. “They really vet you and make sure that they have the right candidate to fill the position.”

Overall, the board has 26 members with voting responsibilities, consisting of appointed regents for 12-year terms, ex officio members and the student regent.

Alumni Regent Keith Ellis said he holds much respect for students who enter the role of student regent. Ellis, who is also vice president of the Alumni Associations of the UC, added that the position comes with much responsibility, as the student regent works as a full regent alongside the rest of the board.

The board discusses meeting basic needs for students, such as housing, but other issues arise throughout the year and are hard to predict in advance, Beharry said.

“I think the role entails really being an advocate for the students,” Beharry said. “There’s only two of us on the board, … and we represent a quarter of a million students across all 10 campuses.”

Ellis said the board has come a long way in terms of diversity and representation across members. He added that he is able to bring his perspective as a person with a disability to his work, and he has focused on providing support for students and community members with disabilities.

“You have current student experiences at the table, you have us alums bringing our experiences to students but also as professionals, and then you have all the gubernatorial appointees,” he said. “It’s really a tapestry of perspectives that are coming together to figure out what’s best for the university.”

Ellis, Beharry and Tesfai all expressed their enjoyment of their roles on the board. Beharry said meeting students from across the UC campuses and being a representative for them has been very gratifying for him. He added that having this role has caused him to realize he would like to pursue higher education in some capacity, whether it be as a professor, researcher or worker in student affairs.

State Senator Ben Allen – who currently represents California’s 24th state Senate district – served as the student regent from 2007 to 2008. In an emailed statement, he said the student regent position is a meaningful way for student voices to be heard and differences to be made.

“Serving as the student member of the Board of Regents was an extraordinary experience,” Allen said in the emailed statement. “It is a tremendous responsibility serving as a key student voice at the highest level of leadership within the University—it’s so important to have principled but tactical student leadership to ensure that student concerns are always at the top of the University’s agenda, that student concerns are always taken into account when decisions are being made at the Regents’ table.”

Tefsai said students do not need to have experience in student government to apply, as the focus is placed on what students are passionate about and their willingness to work with others to represent the UC.

Interested applicants will also have the opportunity to attend a virtual webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Feb. 10. They will hear directly from Tesfai and Beharry regarding the role and the application process.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” Beharry said. “You have a voice, and this is the way to use it – by applying to positions like this where you can make an impact.”

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