The regents, a nine-member state-appointed board, oversee the states public education institutions. The board always has one student member who is rotated among the states three public higher education institutions. Arnold is the first representative from The University of Iowa in nearly a decade.
Arnold, a lifetime resident of Bettendorf, Iowa, listened at the July 17-18 meeting to disturbing facts about budget cuts that each university is having to make in light of reduced funding from the state. She says she was prepared for the heated discussions that would stem from recent budget cuts.
I received the docket prior to the regents meeting and it made for a depressing reading, Arnold says. Ultimately, however, I felt it should be left to the individual universities to determine their own budgets.
A senior majoring in elementary education, Arnold began her tenure July 1 as the only student member on the Board of Regents. Her coworkers at Student Support Services, where Arnold is a tutor, were the ones who recommended her as a candidate. Phil Jones, vice president for Student Services, nominated her for the position.
I was completely surprised by the phone call I received informing me of my nomination, Arnold says. I then talked to my friends and fellow students and knew that this would be a really great opportunity to bring our perspectives to the table.
University of Iowa Interim President Willard Sandy Boyd agrees.
The most important thing is not that Neala is a student from The University of Iowa, Boyd says. What is important is that she has the opportunity to represent all of the regents students in Iowa, and that is better than no student voice at all.
Arnold certainly will get to know the terrain of Iowa better this year as she plans to commute from Bettendorf to her classes in Iowa City. She also will spend time traveling around the entire state to visit the institutions the regents oversee, which along with Iowa and UNI, include Iowa State University in Ames, the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, and the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. Arnold is looking forward to the interactions that her travels and visits will afford her.
There are so many fascinating and dynamic people in the state of Iowa, she says. Ive already had meetings with local legislators from across Iowa. Ive found some very supportive of students concerns about rising tuition and some less sympathetic to their plights, but with valid concerns for the well-being of our state institutions as well.
One of the many duties of her new job that most fascinates Arnold is the approval of the new president of The University of Iowa. Mary Sue Coleman left that position this past summer, and Arnold says the decision the board makes about a new president will likely have a lasting impact for the University and state. She says she relishes the opportunity to serve on the board during the selection process and, ultimately, the hiring of a new president.
Since being appointed to the board by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Arnold has received mailings almost every day informing her of issues facing the board. With her index finger and thumb held as far apart as she could manage, Arnold describes the size of the binder she received prior to her first regents meeting. The timing of that meeting, in which the board was scheduled to review new fiscal year budgets for the state, put Arnold right in the middle of issues that have been ongoing for several years now.
The only way to come in to something like this is right in the middle of it, Interim President Boyd says with a slight smile. But my impression of Neala is that of a very bright, interested, and committed individual, and I think she will represent the regents student population quite well.
By Kirk Murray