Student Regent Purgason sits down with Daily Texan

Liz Farmer

The newly appointed UT System Student Regent hopes to improve communication for students between campuses and the UT System Board of Regents. During her college career, she has spent a total of nine years at two different UT System institutions.

Governor Rick Perry appointed Ashley Purgason, UT Medical Branch at Galveston doctoral student, as Student Regent on Tuesday, and her term will begin June 1. The Student Regent is the only formal role in which students are actively represented among the UT System Regents, the big wigs who call the shots for the 15 UT System institutions. The Student Regent has the same responsibilities as the Regents, but does not have a vote in their decisions.

Purgason is currently a doctoral student of population health sciences at UTMB. She earned her undergraduate and masters degree of biology from UT Arlington and is the outgoing president of UTMB’s student government association. Purgason talked with The Daily Texan about her new role and how she plans to carry out her duties.

The Daily Texan: Why do you think Perry appointed you as Student Regent?
Ashley Purgason: I think I should start by saying that I don’t know who else applied, but I know that it’s an honor. Now that I’ve attended two different UT System institutions I think I can offer insight. I told them that I aspire to bring an element of positivity to the role. I think it makes a difference in how you form relationships, especially with the student bodies.

DT: How will you serve differently than the current Student Regent, John Rutkauskas?
Purgason: I definitely have much to learn from him because he has been very effective in his role. I can’t say what I’ll bring differently to the table because I need to learn about the day-to-day. I can say that in being a successor it’s always important that you do bring your own dynamic, but I think it will be important to honor the past student regents.

DT: How do you plan to represent the students across the 15 UT System institutions?
Purgason: My plan is that I will be visiting each campus at least one time and meet with Student Government. I think a way to expand that is to speak about other organizations on campus because everybody’s opinions are broad and diverse. I think one thing that’s going to be important is to put students in touch with other students from campuses and to improve how students are operating on a day-to-day basis.

DT: The role of research in higher education has been harshly criticized, and faculty members face pressure to spend more time teaching. What do you think is the role of research versus teaching?
Purgason: I can’t tell you how much I love that you asked that question. It directly affects me as a PhD student and I’d like to have a role in teaching one day. Academic professionals need to have competency in both research and teaching. Conducting research means talking with colleagues and that is a form of teaching, which is the same for training students. That can be difficult for students when the professors spend too much time researching. They do need to be available, but I think that’s a personal choice between being available for students or not. I’m not saying the problem doesn’t exist.

DT: Have you spoken to the Regents? Which do you relate to the most?
Purgason: I have met [Regent Brenda] Pejovich and she’s currently the only female Regent. It’s always great to have diversity so I’m looking forward to learning more with her. Diversity always helps the institutions become better. I’m looking forward to meeting all the Regents. 

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: New student Regent offers insight into future role