Student Trustees

Board Basics: What do student trustees need to know?

Student Trustees
Student Trustees



What do student trustees need to know?
  • Colleges exist to educate students. Some community college boards include a seat for at least one student elected from among their peers to represent students' interests and voices during board meetings and other governing events. They keep the board connected to the needs and priorities of the student body to ensure that the board remains well aware of students' perspectives. Without regular insights from students, a board runs the risk of focusing primarily on business matters without attending to the needs of students. 
  • The student trustee is responsible for attending board meetings, participating in discussions, and voting on matters that affect the college. They are also responsible for representing the student body at other events and meetings.
  • Student trustees have access to a variety of resources, including the board of trustees, the college administration, and other student organizations. Student trustees at ACCT member institutions also have access to ACCT's advocacy and education resources, as well as opportunities to build networks with college leaders from throughout the country both online and in person They should use these resources to learn about the college, the board, and the issues facing students, and should take advantages of their unique opportunities to grow and learn both as students and as public servants. 
  • The student trustee is the link between the board of trustees and the student body, as well as an advocate at the state and national levels for community college students. They must be able to communicate effectively with all of these groups in order to be successful. Student trustees should have "elevator pitches" prepared to briefly describe why students choose community colleges, their role as a community college student trustee, and the top needs of community colleges at their respective institutions and nationwide. 
  • The student trustee is an advocate for students. They must be able to speak up for the interests of students and ensure that their voices are heard.
  • The student trustee is a student. Yes, we know; that's obvious. But bear in mind that even as your role may be charged with the full responsibilities of any other board member, your college's leadership and your fellow students must understand that your academic progress is your priority. Make sure to allocate enough time for your coursework, communicate openly about any scheduling challenges you may have, and take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. 

Here are some additional tips for new student trustees:

  • Get involved early. Start attending board meetings and other events as soon as possible. This will help you learn about the college and the board, and it will give you a chance to meet other student leaders. Also determine as early as possible in your tenure as a student trustee whether you're interested in participating int the Student Trustees Advisory Committee. We believe that this experience will be deeply enriching for you, but you also must be willing and available to make a commitment to travel and attend in-person meetings. 
  • Be prepared. Do your research before board meetings. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you review the agenda and the materials that have been distributed. This will help you participate in discussions and ask informed questions.
  • Advocate for yourself and for your fellow students. Don't be afraid to speak up for your beliefs. If you believe that something is important, let the board know. However, bear in mind that you are a member of the board of trustees and you are required to uphold the same fiduciary duties and decorum that all board members are required to uphold. This means that you must respect parliamentary procedure, you must put the greater good of the college community before your own individual interests, you should comport yourself professionally during all public board members, and once the board majority has ruled, it is your responsibility to support and uphold the decision of the board even if you do not agree with it. For the best interest of the college, the board must remain harmonious and must speak with one voice. 
  • Be respectful. Even if you disagree with the board, be respectful of their decisions. Remember that they are elected officials who are responsible for making decisions that are in the best interests of the college. Board service requires an understanding that any body of individuals will frequently disagree about various details, and compromise is often necessary to keep any board and any organization working in harmony over the long run.