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NMSU Domenici Institute seeks student panelists for 2014 conference

New Mexico State University’s Domenici Institute is now accepting nominations from faculty and administrators of universities across the state for students to participate in the 2014 Domenici Public Policy Conference. The conference takes place Sept. 17 and 18 and nominations are due by April 30.

Blonde student with microphone
New Mexico State University student Ivy Wilborn, a Domenici Conference student panelist, asks a question during the 2013 conference in September. Nominations are being sought now for the 20 panelist positions at the 2014 conference. (Photo by Niki Rhynes)

“This is a rare opportunity for students to have a real conversation with some of our nation’s key policy makers and analysts,” said Garrey Carruthers, NMSU president and director of the Domenici Institute. “The 20 students who are chosen as panelists will be the only participants allowed to ask questions of the speakers – and the dialogue they create is always a highlight of the conference.”

The Domenici Student Panelist Program is sponsored for the third 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.

“We’re very proud, as always, to support the student panelist program,” said Craig Buchanan, market president for U.S. Bank in Las Cruces. “It’s such a great chance for students from all over New Mexico to have a learning experience they’ll never forget.”

NMSU has hosted the Domenici Public Policy Conference each year since 2008. Named for retired 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.

While speakers for the 2014 conference have not yet been announced, past student panelists have questioned some of the nation’s top newsmakers, including Gov. Susana Martinez; former U.S. cabinet secretaries 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 top military commanders and defense contractors.

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

To be considered, students must be nominated by faculty or administrators from their respective universities. This year, students are also 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 13.

Edna Reyes, a student at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, said participating in the 2013 Student Panelist Program was a transformative experience that left her surprised to discover how much she had learned and grown.

“For a moment, you are part of something bigger,” Reyes said. “With this experience, you don’t only look at the world differently, but you strive for bigger goals in life.”

For University of New Mexico student Earl Shank, the reward was the chance to speak directly with key policy makers.

“To be able to communicate with Sen. Domenici and Secretary Salazar, not only about policy but also attitude, is something I’m so fortunate to have had an opportunity to participate in,” Shank said. “The dialogues, perspectives and experiences are well worth the work, and something no class could provide.”

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.

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.