Olivia Woodmansee is about to become the voice for nearly 200,000 students across the University of Wisconsin System.
On Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers selected the UW-L sophomore to be the lone student representative on the Board of Regents, an 18-member body that oversees the system’s 13 universities and 13 branch campuses.
Her initial reaction was disbelief.
“I thought that this couldn’t be real. There’s no way this is happening to me,” said Woodmansee, a mathematics and English double-major. “Then I immediately began thinking about all the different things I’ll have to do, all the schools I’ll have to get in contact with.”
Woodmansee’s appointment came after a rigorous process.
First, she was interviewed and ultimately hand-picked by Benjamin O’Connell, UW-L’s student body president.
Then, she beat out candidates from the other UW campuses and gained the endorsement of the UW System Student Representatives.
Finally, she applied to Evers’ office and got the nod from the governor.
“I definitely was not expecting it,” she said. “I’m so overwhelmed by all the support I’ve gotten.”
Woodmansee, a native of New Glarus, said she will bring not just her own values and experiences to the board, but also those of the students she represents.
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She plans to visit campuses across the system, so she can meet with students and listen to their concerns. She also wants to use social media and email to engage as many students as possible, she said.
Earning a seat on the Board of Regents is a logical next step for Woodmansee, who also serves on the Student Senate and Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee at UW-L.
Through this work, Woodmansee has gotten familiar with two issues she hopes to address while on the Board of Regents: fiscal responsibility and mental health.
“Fiscal responsibility is something I’m passionate about,” she said. “Not only saving students money, but making sure we spend money on things that students use and care about.”
Mental health, she said, is one of those worthwhile causes.
Since 2010, UW campus counseling centers have seen a 55% increase in student visits, underscoring the need for more resources, officials say.
Woodmansee was one of three Evers appointments to the Board of Regents on Wednesday. The governor also tapped Karen Walsh, a former journalist and UW-Madison dean, and Edmund Manydeeds III, a lawyer and former regent.
All three must be confirmed by the state Senate before they join the Board of Regents.
Woodmansee said she plans to visit the Capitol soon, in hopes of making a good impression with legislators.
“I want to let them know who I am and what issues are important to me,” she said.