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NMSU Domenici Institute seeks student panelists for 2015 conference

New Mexico State University’s Domenici Institute for Public Policy is now accepting nominations from faculty and administrators of universities across the state for student panelists to participate in the 2015 Domenici Public Policy Conference. The conference takes place Sept. 16 and 17 and nominations are due by April 30.


Young man in suit with microphone
New Mexico State University student Adam Sayre, a Domenici Public Policy Conference student panelist, asks a question during the 2014 conference in September. Nominations are being sought now for the 20 panelist positions at the 2015 conference. (Photo by Niki Rhynes)

“These 20 students from all over New Mexico will have the responsibility of engaging in a meaningful dialogue with some of the top policy minds of our time,” said Garrey Carruthers, NMSU president and director of the Domenici Institute. “The students routinely impress me with the way they rise to the occasion.”

The Domenici Student Panelist Program is sponsored for the fourth year by U.S. Bank, providing each student panelist with a $250 U.S. Bank Visa gift card, a two-night hotel stay in Las Cruces and an orientation dinner.

“The student panelist program is such an important part of this conference,” said Craig Buchanan, market president for U.S. Bank in Las Cruces. “We’re pleased to support it again and really look forward to seeing everything these top students from around New Mexico contribute to the conversation.”

NMSU has hosted the Domenici Public Policy Conference each year since 2008. Named for retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, the yearly conference attracts more than 900 attendees and brings together some of the country’s top experts to thoughtfully examine and highlight important public policy matters.

Speakers for the 2015 conference have not yet been announced, but past student panelists have questioned some of the nation’s top newsmakers, including former U.S. cabinet secretaries Leon Panetta, Ken Salazar, James Baker and Janet Napolitano; former senators Bill Frist, Tom Daschle and Christopher Dodd; former ambassadors John Bolton and Karen Hughes; former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove; and political strategist James Carville; along with governors, top military commanders and defense contractors.

Panelists will also have an opportunity to meet privately, as a group, with Domenici during the conference.

To be considered, students must be nominated by faculty or administrators from their respective universities. Again this year, students are encouraged to submit a brief letter of interest outlining why they’d like to participate as a panelist. Nominees who provide this additional insight into their conference goals will be given first consideration.

All nomination materials and letters of intent must be received by April 30, and student nominees will be notified of their selection status via email on or before June 12.


Allen Matsika, a liberal arts student at St. John’s College in Santa Fe who was a 2014 conference panelist, said he was surprised by how diverse the group of students was, in terms of majors and interests.

“It made me realize that politics is not only for political science majors, or government and policy majors, but for everybody,” Matsika said. “The future of a country depends on environmentalists, doctors, diplomats, computer scientists, philosophers, lawyers, leaders and so many others working together to chart its trajectory.

“I’m glad that these groups and more were represented in the panelist pool,” Matsika continued. “I learned a lot from that diversity.”

Students selected as panelists will be mentored by a small committee of the Domenici Institute Advisory Council. NMSU College of Education professor and advisory council member Alfred Valdez will lead the committee and guide the student preparation.

During the summer, student panelists are expected to participate in research initiatives resulting in the development of comprehensive and relevant questions to be addressed by the conference speakers. Students will work in teams and each team will be assigned to research and prepare questions for one speaker.

Sarah Szymonski, an education student at Eastern New Mexico University who also served as a 2014 panelist, advised future participants to learn as much as they can about the topics and viewpoints their speakers will address.

“Being extremely well versed in these areas will help you to be more confident when formulating questions and more knowledgeable when speaking about the topic,” she said. “Speaking to such influential and prominent leaders of our country is an experience I will never forget, and I learned really powerful lessons from the conference speakers and through the process of serving as a student panelist.”

For more information about the program, including the online nomination form, visit domenici.nmsu.edu and click on the Domenici Conference page. Questions regarding the program should be directed to Sara Patricolo, Domenici Institute program manager, at 575-646-2066 or spatrico@nmsu.edu.