For almost two years, around 50 Student Senate meetings and 20 Board of Regents meetings, there has consistently been an empty chair at the table, waiting for approval from Gov. Mike Parson to fill. From Jan. 15, 2019 until Sept. 21, 2020, the voice of the student body in the form of the student regent was absent.
Shortly before the first Student Senate meeting in person since the start of the pandemic, sophomore Connor Thompson received the email saying he had been approved as the student regent.
Janay Orange, the last student regent, graduated in December 2018. At each meeting throughout the spring 2019 semester, then President Alyssa Lincoln repeated in her opening report that the applications for the student regent had been sent, and they were waiting for approval on the governor’s desk. Through the rest of her presidency, and the entirety of 97th Student Senate President Asma Hassan’s, the applications waited.
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In January, Thompson was a freshman and an associate member, attending meetings in the audience section of the J.W. Jones Student Union ballroom and offering student input, but not having an official vote from the tables at the perimeter of the room. Thompson applied the following month.
“I applied because I felt like I could help give the student body a strong voice and make sure that our opinion is heard,” Thompson said.
Student Senate President Kirayle Jones said while he was not involved in the application and interview process for the position, since that was handled during the spring semester, he was pleased to hear that the position had been finally filled.
“The role of the student regent is to work as an additional liaison and an advocate for our students,” Jones said. “It’s important to have a student regent in Senate because they get to see what great work that the students and the organizations are doing and express that to some of the highest individuals on our campus.”
While his application was pending, Thompson got more involved. He ran for an official seat at the Student Senate tables and was elected as a sophomore class representative and the treasurer. He also serves as vice chair of the Student Senate organizational affairs committee, vice president of Tau Kappa Epsilon, vice president of risk management on the Interfraternity Council and a member of the St. Jude Up ’til Dawn executive board.
“I feel good about taking the position,” Thompson said. “I've been in a lot of leadership positions, and they've taught me how to lead and represent.”
Taking on this role is a challenge during a pandemic when meetings of all kinds are a blend of in person and virtual and organizations can’t meet, stalling the most fundamental function of Student Senate, but Thompson said he hopes he can be flexible.
“I'm worried about COVID and how this impacts my ability to reach out, but I'm working on some creative ways to reach out,” Thompson said. “I'm excited about impacting the policies of Northwest moving forward.”
In order to be more accessible to students, Thompson plans to create his own student regent Twitter account and host virtual town hall-like meetings to interact with students in addition to giving weekly reports at Student Senate meetings, which have transitioned back to being held in person starting with the Oct. 6 meeting.
“I think Connor Thompson is a very hardworking individual,” Jones said. “Connor cares about every organization he is involved in, as well as each member he interacts with. I chose Connor Thompson to be one of my running mates for the Student Senate Executive Board because I could tell his passion for our University and the students.”