March 16, 2016 by Amanda Bradford, NMSU News Center
New Mexico State University’s Domenici Institute for Public Policy is now accepting nominations from faculty and administrators of universities and community colleges across the state for student panelists to participate in the 2016 Domenici Public Policy Conference. The conference takes place Sept. 14 and 15 and nominations are due by April 28.
“The 20 students who are selected come from institutions all over New Mexico, and they get a rare opportunity to interact with our speakers,” said Garrey Carruthers, chancellor of the NMSU system and director of the Domenici Institute. “We expect them to prepare well-researched and thoughtful questions that help expand the dialogue for the whole audience. I continue to be impressed every year by how well they deliver on that expectation.”
Thanks to conference sponsors, the Domenici Institute is able to provide each student panelist a two-night hotel stay in Las Cruces, a $250 Visa gift card, and a group dinner during the evening orientation on Sept. 13.
NMSU has hosted the Domenici Public Policy Conference each year since 2008. Named for retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, the conference attracts more than 1,000 attendees and brings together some of the country’s top experts to thoughtfully examine and highlight important public policy matters. Topics for this year include the November elections, mental health care, the public trust and national security.
Speakers for the 2016 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 Mary Peters, Leon Panetta, Ken Salazar, James Baker and Janet Napolitano; former senators Bill Frist, Tom Daschle and Christopher Dodd; former ambassadors Robert Ford, 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 28, and student nominees will be notified of their selection status via email on or before June 10.
Kristen Sullivan, a government student at NMSU who served as a 2015 student panelist, said she approached the panelist experience hoping to become a better collaborator and critical thinker, and came away with greater confidence in her own abilities.
“It helped build my self-confidence as well as my public speaking skill,” Sullivan said. “Not only was speaking to such important people beneficial, but the conference gave me many networking opportunities I would have missed had I not participated.
“I now know I am capable of so much more than I thought I was,” she continued.
Students selected as panelists will be mentored by a small committee of the Domenici Institute Advisory Council. NMSU Vice President for Economic Development and advisory council member Kevin Boberg 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 Hodson, an international studies graduate from University of New Mexico who also served as a 2015 panelist, advised future participants to take the initiative to conduct independent research and be active members of their teams.
“Each participant’s contribution is very valuable,” Hodson said. “You were picked to be a panelist because you have something special to offer.”
NMSU students who are selected as panelists will have the opportunity to earn three credits by extending their summer research into a fall semester course. These students will develop a paper to expand on the policy topics they explored in preparing for the conference. Students interested in earning NMSU course credit should discuss this in their letter of interest.
For more information about the program, including the online nomination form, visit http://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 firstname.lastname@example.org.