Q+A: A chat with our student trustee

Bridget Kingston, News Editor

Luzelena Escamilla was officially inducted into the board of trustees as the student trustee in May, and recently sat down with The Courier’s news editor to discuss how her term has gone thus far. Her first board meeting, thoughts on Rondeau’s first months as president and the impact of the recently released audit report were all topics of discussion.


Bridget Kingston: What initially inspired you to run for the position of student trustee?

Luzelena Escamilla: If you told people I went to high school with that I’m the student trustee they’re all like, ‘What? No!’ because I am not at all the person I was in high school. In high school, I didn’t really care about my grades. I wasn’t very involved. I didn’t really want to go to community college. You know there’s kind of this negative stigma that it’s for people who don’t know what they want to do, or that it’s not fun. But I was like ‘Whatever, I’ll go.’ So then I kind of figured that since I was already here, I might as well make the most of these two years. I took honors courses and did very well in them. Then I started working in the Office of Student Life, and that’s what really got me involved. I started with the living leadership program, then worked my way up to becoming a Phi Theta Kappa officer. Then I met Kiley (Pooler, Student Leadership Council President), and she became my best friend. Last year we were like, ‘We should run! My brother had a great experience being student trustee; we should do it. I’ll be the trustee. You can be SLC president.’ And that’s really how it all started working out, and I’m so happy that it did.


BK:What are your plans after College of DuPage?

LE: I want to transfer to George Washington University or somewhere in Washington. That’s just the place to be for political science. Actually being on the board really helped me see that more clearly. I learned how much structure and governance goes into facilitating and accommodating a higher learning institution. I was like, ‘Wow, this is really interesting,’ and it’s really inspired me. I’m actually working now to open up a grant for a scholarship for an undocumented student. It’s just one more student, one more life that can be touched through education. I know that education has definitely helped me better myself.


BK: You were part of the hiring process for the school’s new president. What was that like for you?

LE: It’s actually a really funny story because my term didn’t start until April 15. The first board meeting was in May, where I officially got inducted and got to sit in on my first board meeting. So I had no idea that I was going to be a part of the hiring  process, whatsoever. I remember I was sitting in the audience in my Converse and flannel, and Gloria (Roark, student trustee 2015-2016) was sitting next to me in her dress and heels because she was planning on being a part of the process. So I’m just sitting there, taking notes when David Olsen (Vice Chairman for board of trustees) came up to me and said, ‘Well, your term officially started. So it’s you who’s going to come into the interviewing process with us.’ In my head I was like ‘No! I have no idea what I’m doing. Nobody told me any of this. I’m so embarrassed. Am I really going to have to go up there in my Converse and flannel?’ So Gloria gave me her clothes for the first forum, and I just had to go up there and do it. So, yeah, that’s how my first forum went. I was just thrown into it. I would’ve been so much better prepared if I actually knew that I was going to be a part of the process. But I think that has been my best experience as trustee so far. It was so interesting to sit in the closed session when I had never been in a closed session before. Being able to have that one-on-one discussion with the trustees and having that one-on-one discussion with the candidates in the forum was just so interesting.


BK: What is your evaluation of Rondeau’s first three months as president?

LE: I think she’s great. From the first day I met her, I could tell that she was going to do a great job. The first time I met her after her forum, she was the only one that came up to me and talked to me out of the three candidates we reviewed. She knew exactly who I was. She knew who Gloria was. She knew who Joe Stall, our previous student body president, was. She asked me what I was studying, what I wanted to do, and how I was going to get there. During her forum you could tell when she talked about student success that she really emphasized on that. Her whole leadership style and transparency was what I admired about her from the beginning. Yeah, I think she’s doing great. She really cares about us as students.


BK: How do you feel the findings from the recently released audit report affected the student body during the time period the report examined (2008-2015)?

LE: So that was during Gloria’s term? I think that the biggest issue for students then was our accreditation. We’re here to get an education that’s going to transfer somewhere else. So that’s how I think it impacted students. We were really scared that our credits weren’t going to transfer. It’s the whole reason why we’re here. But I don’t think that a lot of students knew about it. I think that if you asked a student right now from the hall about it, I think they would have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t feel that it really impacted students. It did impact the College of DuPage, like being on the news and you know this negative notion associated with the college because of that. But, yeah, I don’t think students were specifically like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is bad.’


BK: What do you think are some of the most effective steps the college has taken to get off accreditation probation by Nov. 2017?

LE: I think definitely being transparent. With the audit report coming out, I think it’s the perfect example of the college saying, ‘Here are our flaws; nothing is going to be swept under the rug.’ We’re taking things head on by hitting the nail on the head. Like everything is going to be accounted for. I like that Dr. Rondeau’s message is like, ‘I’m accountable.’ She’s very accountable; I think we should all be more accountable for something, and it’s like we’re accountable for this, and we’re going to make sure it’s done. I feel like the transparency really helps that.


BK: What do you hope to accomplish during your year as student trustee?

LE: So like I mentioned before, I’m working on the grant for an undocumented student. This is the first time College of DuPage is doing this so we don’t really know how many students are going to apply, or if any students will even apply for it. So the scholarship so far is for one undocumented student; a full ride for two years. The application is due Dec. 2, so I’m really hoping to see that unfold. I really hope I get that accomplished. I’m also really hoping to implement a book swap in the bookstore to help cut costs of textbooks. I’m actually partnering with the college-wide coordinator for Phi Theta Kappa and she’s taking on that project. So this is more her project, I’m just helping her with logistics. So those are two things I’m really hoping will happen when I’m done here.