When he came to Ithaca College as a freshman, junior Josh Keniston had only the vaguest idea of what the board of trustees did.
But this year, the communication management and design major is a full-fledged voting member of the board, where he, along with 29 other members, makes decisions about the college’s budget and policies.
“I want to keep what’s great about Ithaca great, and the parts that need to be improved, I want to improve,” he said.
The board of trustees is the highest governing body at the college. The members meet three times a year and make decisions regarding college policy, faculty tenure and the college’s budget.
Keniston’s first meeting with the board was Oct. 12 at the kick-off to the college’s Capital Campaign. He sits on two board committees: the Academic Policy Committee and the Campus Life and Community Committee. It is an unpaid position.
But the job doesn’t start and end with the meetings. Keniston reads 500 to 600 pages of material — binders full of president’s reports, agendas, college history and new building plans — to prepare for each meeting.
Keniston said he was inspired to apply for the position by Raphael Golberstein ’06, his resident assistant during his freshman year and the student trustee from 2004 to 2006. Golberstein said Keniston has the “maturity, depth and vision” to take on the unique role of student trustee.
“It is a rarity for a college student to be actively involved in setting multimillion-dollar operating and capital budgets, structuring a capital campaign, working through the designs of new buildings [and] approving changes to faculty guidelines,” he said.
Keniston, who describes himself as “confident” and “approachable,” said he wants students to talk with him so he can bring their issues to the board. In order to better understand issues of concern to students, Keniston regularly attends Student Government Association meetings.
“My goal is to get current students more involved in the future of IC,” he said.
Though he is the student trustee, Keniston pointed out that he is not exactly an advocate for the student body.
“I’m not a representative,” he said. “But I can provide a student perspective. I’m not always going to have the answers. I’m not always going to be on your side. But knowing that will make me able to be a better trustee.”
Becoming a student trustee is a three-step process. Keniston submitted his application and was interviewed by students and faculty. Former trustee Golberstein then chose Keniston and two other students to speak to the entire board of trustees at their meeting last May. Keniston was the board’s final selection and will serve until his two-year term ends in 2008.
Keniston grew up in Readfield, Maine, a town with a population of about 2,300. Coming from a small town fueled Keniston’s desire to get involved.
“There is not much going on [there], so you get involved in your high school,” he said.
During his sophomore year, Keniston was a resident assistant in Boothroyd Hall. He was also on the crew team during his freshman and sophomore years.
Peter Johanns, an assistant professor in the television-radio department, teaches Keniston in his Television Direction and Production class. He said Keniston is an ambitious student who can relate easily to others.
“He’s kind of wanting to get to the next level, and I think that’s great,” he said. “He’s always inquiring more about television production than what I might be going over [at that moment].”
Keniston used to be a television-radio major before he switched to communication management and design.
Keniston said he wants to be able to voice the views of students in all of the schools, not just his own. He said he has been bridging the gaps between schools by talking to deans and students from each school.
“I’ve never taken a class in [the school of Health Sciences and Human Performance], so it’s hard for me to understand those aspects of it,” he said. “That’s probably one of my biggest weaknesses.”
But Keniston said he also brings many strengths to his new job.
“I know my place, but I’m not afraid to speak up,” he said.