Student regent aspires to serve community

This is the second installment of a 12-part series profiling the representatives who make final  University decisions. 

The student Regent of the Murray State Board of Regents holds a vital position on campus.

The student is the voice of the students within the administrative governing body. Jeremiah Johnson, graduate student from Hopkinsville, Ky., holds the role of student Regent and Student Government Association president.

Johnson is serving his second term in both roles.

Johnson said he has always wanted to represent others and to have the ability to make others’ lives better. He said a major influence on his aspirations is his mother.

“She passed away when I was 9 and it made me really think about all the good she had done,” he said. “She was always working her hardest to make other people’s lives better. I want to follow the lead she established.”

Johnson credited two of his high school advisers for making him the public speaker he is today.

He said Olivia Clark and Brad Hawkins of Christian County High School had a huge impact on his life.

“Without their influences I don’t think I would have ever looked within myself to see the potential of a public speaker or public servant,” he said.

Johnson’s career goals include working within the U.S. Department of Agriculture or within higher education, and through his career he wants his main focus to be on agriculture.

“Agriculture has been at the core of my life, all of my life,” he said. “I grew up on a tobacco farm – that’s the reason I could afford college. Agriculture is everything. It’s clothing, food, biofuel and so much more.”

Johnson said his passion for agriculture ties in with his passion for others. He said his role as SGA president and student Regent allow him to serve his peers.

“Much of the time, people say the board doesn’t care about the students,” Johnson said. “That isn’t true. The board represents the students, faculty, staff and community of Murray State, but they also must run the University as a business.”

He said the board does take his views and opinions to heart, and he has had regents pull him aside to ask him about how the students feel on certain issues.

Johnson said a key issue the students always complain about is the rise of tuition.

“The University would’ve gone into the red if we didn’t raise tuition,” Johnson said. “I think if we wouldn’t have raised tuition we would’ve had to take too much from our reserves. You can only do that so many times before you don’t have any money left to pull from.”

The regents gather their information from briefs sent weekly by the presidents office, a copy of The Murray State News, clips from other regional papers and by contacting administrators at the University.

“Most of the time we go through the presidents office in answering our questions,” he said. “Many times we will go to another higher administrator position to get answers. The three constituency regents get reports from their people all the time.”

Johnson has senators within SGA who report information from each of the academic colleges, residential colleges and other student groups.

He said it was his mission to have the best information when he goes to the board to represent the student body.

The impact of his position is real, he said. At the beginning of his first term, students made him aware of the new sidewalk in front of the Waterfield Library, and how it could become slippery.

He said several people fell as a result, so he worked with the board and facilities management to get more traction installed. The sidewalk has become less hazardous as a result of their work.

Story by Chris Wilcox, News Editor