Seeking out a trustee position at a university or college is a noble effort that shows you have a deep interest in the affairs of a particular institution. Getting elected, however, presents a number of ethical and practical considerations that you'll have to deal with in order to make your time as a trustee a success. To bloom in your new role, think about doing the following.
Know the Ethics Policy
Perhaps the best thing that you can do for your new position is to get a copy of the board ethics policy and be sure you understand what it says. You may consider yourself a good-hearted person who makes sound ethical decisions, but your college is likely to have specific actions to avoid if you want to remain in good standing with the board.
For example, if you're used to giving your personal opinions about local politics on various social media websites, your college could prefer that you cease discussion regarding those issues until your trustee term has been completed. Violating any part of the ethics policy could have a number of negative consequences that you should also know about. if you have a question about what you're reading in the policy, immediately check with other trustees so that you don't end up losing your position before you've had a chance to get things done.
Research Meeting Issues
In your new role, you're likely to meet once or more times each month with the entire trustee board to go over specific problems and issues that need to be handled. You might not expect, though, that the issues and problems you'll discuss could require some research beforehand. This is very important to realize because your trustee role might be one of many that you have to focus on throughout your month. You will need to designate time for yourself to really understand what each meeting will be about. If you do so, you can be a more engaged and informed member of the board.
Be on Campus
It's almost impossible to do your best work as a trustee if you're never near the people and places that make up the college you're serving. You owe it not only to yourself but to those you serve to spend as much time there as you can. Listen to concerns, ask for feedback and absorb the environment so you can be a true asset on the board.
Working on the issues described here can enhance your standing as a newly-elected college trustee. Talk more with your fellow trustees and others who can provide guidance about how to best conduct yourself during your time on the board.
For more information visit Katharine Hamilton's website.