‘The absolute best choice’: UC Berkeley student to be 1st undergraduate transfer on UC Board of Regents

Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley rising senior Alexis Zaragoza became the first ever undergraduate transfer student nominated as the UC student regent Friday.

The student regent sits on the UC Board of Regents with the other appointed regents and is a voting member. Nominees have one year of being the Student Regent-designate, during which they shadow the student regent and serve as a nonvoting member of the regents. They then become the student regent a year later. Zaragoza is the first undergraduate in five years to be nominated, according to ASUC Transfer Student Representative Valerie Johnson.

According to UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar, the process to become a student regent is long and challenging. It takes up to four months and requires three letters of recommendation, personal statements and finalist interviews with a panel of regents, Sarveshwar said.

Zaragoza said she thinks there are many voices missing from regents’ meetings.

“We really should be listening to our students, first and foremost,” Zaragoza said. “I want to be putting focus on students who typically wouldn’t be a regent.”

According to Zaragoza, she was pushed into student advocacy while at community college. She said she found it interesting that most community college students took six or seven years to receive their bachelor’s degrees.

She said she realized soon after that the bureaucracy of the system regarding transferable classes was holding students back. She said she stumbled upon an application for the California Community Colleges Board of Governors because she thought it sounded “really cool” — it was there that she was taught to navigate institutional spaces similar to the UC regents, according to Sarveshwar.

 Johnson called Zaragoza “the absolute best choice” for the next UC student regent.

“Alexis has a deep knowledge of the system and of student needs,” Johnson said in an email. “She’s in this fight to help us demand the best from our system leaders, not to flatter them.”

Johnson also said Zaragoza’s status as a transfer student was important because she said transfer students are often discouraged by institutional barriers from seeking similar roles.

Johnson and Zaragoza worked together for almost two years, according to Johnson, both across community college settings and in the UC setting after they both transferred to campus. Johnson added that student regent is a big job, and that if one is in it for the wrong reasons, they will not succeed in the position.

Zaragoza said she understands that students care about a lot of things and have big things they want to change. Through serving on the board of governors, she learned how to find a balance between pushing for as much change as possible while respecting and understanding that intuitions are difficult to work in.

“I’ve already gotten to a point where I have my own voice,” Zaragoza said. She said she doesn’t “have to feel worried about speaking in front of board members.”

Contact Zara Khan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zara_khanDC.