Student learns while she works

Kevin Wilson

Summer is no vacation for Tracy Henderson.
From 8 a.m. to late evening every weekday, Henderson is doing something that involves Eastern New Mexico University. She starts her day at Services for Students with Disabilities, spends afternoons on her internship at the office of Communication Services and ends the night working at home for a macro-economics class and an online communications course.
“I’m pretty busy,” Henderson said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with my time if I wasn’t busy.”
Her time is dedicated to another pursuit as well. Once a month, the senior public relations major is representing the university and her fellow students on the board of regents.
Henderson, a 1999 graduate of Tucumcari High School, is six months into a two-year term as a regent. Henderson is a secretary/treasurer for the board.
Henderson also has a vote in proposals, meaning she gets the same responsibilities and rewards as people who are out of school and working in their own businesses.
“I’m still a student and I’m still connected with Eastern,” Henderson said. “They’re businessmen, more advanced in their careers. They have a lot more experience and knowledge.
“I’m able to voice (my opinion), but it’s a learning position also.”
Henderson first became interested in the position when Gary Musgrave, the vice president of academic affairs, mentioned it when he stopped by the SSD office in the first week of January. Henderson said she did some research on the position and it intrigued her.
“I thought that would be a perfect position to learn more about Eastern, help the students, and use my education,” Henderson said.
Less than a week later, Henderson was appointed as the regent.
“The magnitude probably didn’t hit me until later on,” Henderson said. “I got elected and that Wednesday, we went to Santa Fe (to see the final meeting for previous ENMU regents).”
Henderson said she first realized the gravity of the situation on Feb. 21, the day of her first meeting.
“My vote actually counted,” Henderson said, “and my voice actually mattered and that’s when it hit me.”
From then on, Henderson has received the rare perspective of being both a student and a decision-maker. In the past, Henderson said she would have been irate over tuition increases she now votes for because they aid student programs.
“I don’t walk into a place without seeing how it’s affecting Eastern,” Henderson said. “On another level, the staff have always welcomed students. As a student or a student regent, I’ve always felt a part of Eastern.”
Henderson said being a student regent isn’t much different than being a student, other than making her an easier target for jokes around the office. For example, Henderson said she still sees Steven Gamble as her president, not her boss.
Gamble isn’t Henderson’s only president at ENMU. Blaine Hess, a Roswell businessman, is the president of the board of regents. He is seated next to Henderson at every meeting, and he likes what he has seen from her.
“I’m very impressed with Tracy,” Hess said. “She’s the third student regent I’ve worked with. She comes very well prepared for the meetings, she reads her materials and doesn’t hesitate to ask questions.
“She’s a real asset for the students of ENMU, and I believe that’s her No. 1 priority, to make sure their needs are addressed.”
Hess thinks the university is heading in the right direction, citing high morale and preliminary indications of a large freshman class. However, he won’t take credit for any of that, nor will he give it to Henderson or any other regent.
“The board of regents really doesn’t do that,” Hess said. “That’s the administration and the faculty and the staff. They seem to pitch in and pull on that same rope for the students, and that’s where it needs to be.”
Henderson will focus on the students for the next 18 months, and she’ll do it as a graduate student as well. Henderson said she plans to enter graduate school at ENMU after she finishes her degree in December.
Henderson always envisioned “doing something with politics,” but now her scope is broader.
“Now, as I see inspiring professors, I would like to teach classes at night,” Henderson said. “I would like to impact students as these teachers have.”
For now, though, Henderson will continue to build experience and a resume with her position as a regent.
“It’s an opportunity I wish more students had,” Henderson said. “It’s a great steppingstone.”