SDSU’s Brock Brown speaks for students on Board of Regents


Zoey Schentzel

South Dakota’s student regent, Brock Brown, was accepted to the University of South Dakota law school and will be enrolled there fall 2022.

Taylor Storbakken, Reporter

South Dakota State’s Brock Brown has a unique job.

In fact, there’s only one like it in the whole state.

Brown, a native of Lake Norden, is the student regent on the South Dakota Board of Regents. The panel is the governing body of the state’s higher education system and sets policies for the programs and services featured at the six public universities in the state, including SDSU.

There are nine members on the board, and the regents all come from the professional world – they’re lawyers, CEOs, retired professors and former government officials, to name a few. And  of course, there’s Brown.

The senior will graduate in May with a degree in history and political science. And while he doesn’t yet have the professional experience that his colleagues on the board have, he does have something valuable to offer – a student’s perspective when it comes to dealing with the issues and challenges of higher education.

 “Regent Brown is on campus, mixes with the student population and is involved in many campus activities,” said Brian Maher, executive director and CEO of the Regents. “Those are experiences that help inform the board’s discussion on many topics.”

Oftentimes, board members will turn to Brown to understand what is happening on campus. Because of this, Brown admits that, “you do have that weight on your shoulders of trying to give the opinions to (the best of) your understanding.”

While Brown’s title is student regent, his vote counts just the same as all the other regents, which is not the case in all states that have student regents, said Janelle Toman, the Regents’ director of communications.

“His vote carries the same weight as any other regent,” Maher said. “Just as important, his voice carries the same weight as any other regent.”

Brown was appointed as the student regent in June 2020 by Gov. Kristi Noem and will complete his two-year term in June.

The Board of Regents deals with a variety of issues, such as approving graduation lists, tuition and fees and student code of conduct. Brown said that before joining the board, he didn’t see “the amount of time and energy that goes into policies that we as students just see in our handbook.”

Being a member of the board has opened his eyes to many different ideas and varying perspectives.

He is expected to attend numerous meetings and events. The board meets every other month for a large group two-day meeting to review policy. Additionally, Brown serves on the Regents’ Legislative Committee, which meets twice a week during the legislative session, and the Academic and Student Affairs Committee that meets every other month. The purpose of these committees is to discuss issues before it comes before the large group.

Assuming that a bill or resolution passes through the committee and board, the measure will be presented to the state legislature. Typically, at least one regent is in Pierre during the legislative session to present testimony or answer questions pertaining to the Board of Regents legislation brought forward.

Brown has faced various challenges throughout his term. Being the student regent is a substantial time commitment, so balancing school, work and social life can be challenging.

That is especially true when you are expected to review materials during one of the busiest weeks of college – finals week.

“Just this last December we had a board meeting where I got mailed a group of papers to read and it was also during finals week,” Brown said. “I also had finals that were happening during the board meeting.”

Brown is particularly busy from January up until March during legislative session. He said that he finds it important to manage time wisely to complete the tasks assigned.

Another unique challenge was one that past student regents haven’t had to deal with – the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after being appointed to this position, Brown experienced his first meetings via Zoom. University mask mandates were a controversial topic during this time.

“[Brock]maintained good communication with the elected leaders of students and had conversations with the general students who are experiencing the same thing,” said SDSU Students’ Association President Andrew Rasmussen.

Before he was appointed student regent, Brown was a Students’ Association senator at SDSU. He also served as a legislative intern and later interned with Noem. Brown said these experiences helped him when he made the leap to a statewide office.

Brown’s experience as a regent has helped him further hone many skills. Learning about how policy is implemented, improving time management skills and building relationships with board members and university leaders are a few of the many lessons learned so far.

Once Brown receives his bachelor’s degree, he plans to attend law school at the University of South Dakota. 

“This is a time in my life I will never forget and I will forever be honored to have been South Dakota’s student regent,” he said.