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First branch campus student elected to BOT

Mark Lombardi-Nelson, student body president of the St. Petersburg campus, emerged with a smile from more than five hours of Board of Trustee workgroup meetings last week.

“I’m pumped,” he said. “Now I have new things to do and learn, and new processes to understand. … If I can solve someone else’s problems, that gives me energy.”

The full Board of Trustees meets next week at the St. Petersburg campus, and for the first time, the campus will be home to the BOT’s student representative, Lombardi-Nelson.

In 2011, the Student Advisory Council (SAC) was created to determine which branch campus student body president will serve as the student representative on the Board of Trustees, according to an email statement from USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman. In 2012, the Council held its first vote and elected Tampa campus Brian Goff as the trustee.

This year, Lombardi-Nelson became the first student representative from a branch campus, and “it couldn’t be more sweet,” he said.

“It’s such an amazing feeling,” he said. “When it happened, I started shaking. It was really cool. … In recent years, branch campuses have begun to grow and show a desire for representation. … We talked about it, but it didn’t seem as attainable.”

According to a Memorandum of Agreement signed earlier this month, each year the student representative to the Board of Trustees will be elected by the SAC, which the memorandum states will consist of outgoing student body presidents of each branch campus, student body president-elects, Student Government (SG) Senate presidents and up to one representative per 10,000 students at a branch campus.

Lombardi-Nelson said he wants to explore the memorandum with each campus SG to see how they can “give it some teeth” and work on how to best have the student voice reflected on the council and Board.

“I really want to focus on USF at an internal level as a BOT representative, and I really want to work with the student governments to be the best trustee ever from the student perspective,” he said. “I will be at the call of anyone who needs me, from St. Pete, Sarasota-Manatee or Tampa.”

William Warmke, the Tampa campus student body president said he thinks the new system is fair.

“I like it,” he said.

Lombardi-Nelson said he plans to be at each branch campus a minimum of once every two weeks.

“I’m addicted,” he said. “I’m intending on spending time anywhere I’m needed, as much as possible. If that means I need to clear out a week and only be in St. Pete for classes to be in Tampa, that’s what I’m doing.”

To prepare for the upcoming meeting, he has watched online videos of the past year’s BOT meetings, studying how student representatives speak and what BOT decorum is.

The student voice makes a difference on the BOT, he said.

“It’s totally important,” he said. “If your student voice is right before a meeting and everyone’s already built consensus, you’re too late. You have to be proactive.”

But above all, he said, the student voice he carries will be one for the USF System.

“I’m not a St. Pete representative,” he said. “I’m a System representative. … We’ve always had this sense that ‘we are Bulls,’ and that there’s no separation.”

—Additional reporting by Elizabeth Engasser