As Meg Gould sat in her friend’s chair on the University of Virginia’s Lawn in the spring of 2011 as a senior in high school contemplating where she would be going to college, she was mesmerized by her surroundings.
Little did she know that come this fall, she, too, would be residing in one of U.Va.’s Lawn rooms – and representing the students of U.Va. on the Board of Visitors.
Even as she began her undergraduate career, Gould, a third-year global development studies and French major, had no inkling that she would have an interest in the University’s governance, let alone become U.Va.’s student representative. But through her involvement with her class council, Madison House and Dance Marathon, in addition to her following of the resignation and reinstatement of U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan in June 2012, the board’s position and its importance were brought to her attention.
The events of the summer of 2012 highlighted the significance of the board to the University community and especially the role that the student member plays in representing student interest.
“During that time it was really important for the board to have a voice of the students and see their [perspective] and understand numbers on a spreadsheet as people, rather than just numbers, and so that served as my initial point of interest,” Gould said.
As important as it was for the board to hear the voice of students then, it is equally important now. Recently, Gould has engaged in conversations about the Rotunda restoration, which will affect her class’s graduation ceremony, and conversations about the changes to AccessUVA. Both of these discussions sparked her interest in the student board position and the voice it can offer students.
Gould, an Echols Scholar, went through a three-step process to receive her appointment. At the urging of numerous people, she applied in January. She was interviewed as a semifinalist shortly thereafter and received word that she would be interviewed as a finalist in early February. The Board of Visitors appointed her on Feb. 19.
All of it was done long-distance, as Gould is studying abroad in Paris this semester.
The student representative does not have a vote, but serves as a sounding board on issues that affect students, both before and after decisions are made.
Gould said she understands that her responsibilities will not be easy.
“I’m so excited. I think it definitely serves as a challenge, but a really great opportunity to provide the inner voice of the students to the board,” she said. “This opportunity allows a student who is living in the trenches of the student experiences to be able to share that with the board and show them what the priorities of the students are.”
Gould said she doesn’t have a set agenda for her one-year term, which begins June 1, other than to improve communication between the board and students.
“There isn’t really a specific, defined description for the role,” she said. “I really want to make the communication between the board and the students more open, more connected and more responsive on both sides, so the board decisions can really take into account the student perspective.”
Despite not knowing what to expect, Gould said she is excited to hit the ground running. “I’m really excited about getting back to U.Va. and making the inherent disconnect between [students and the board] smaller,” she said.
Gould said she plans to seek student input by reaching out to the many different groups at U.Va. and explaining the ways in which her position can represent their interest.
Last week, Gould’s peers elected her as a representative on the Honor Committee, which she has been involved with since her first year. While her two positions are not directly intertwined, Gould sees them as complementary.
“Having the ability to reach out and interact with those different constituencies and groups around Grounds will allow both positions to be more reflective of the student perspective,” she said.
A sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma; co-editor of Engage U.Va., a weekly civic engagement newsletter for the U.Va. community;and an executive board member of Flash Seminars, Gould said she understands the value of student self-governance as one of the cornerstones of the University.
“Leadership is one of the main points of the strategic plan for the Board of Visitors, they really do encourage student self-governance,” she said. “I think the role of the student member is also to bring those voices of student leaders to the boardroom and allow the Board of Visitors to see what incredible things students are doing.”
Gould said she is going to “work until I drop” to serve the students. “Although [the position] is non-voting, I think that it can be integral in making the board more reflective of students and supporting their different initiatives,” she said.