Meet Vianney Careaga, the newly appointed student regent and voice for Arizona students across the state.
Careaga, a political science sophomore and the current Associated Students of the University of Arizona director of civic engagement will appear today before the Senate Committee on Education for his conformation hearing.
“I am very humbled and honored at this opportunity to serve my fellow peers not only here at the UA, but also at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University,” Careaga said. “The student regent gets to have a hand in really shaping the future of higher education policy for the state of Arizona.”
Background and experience
Careaga has had governmental aspirations for quite a while.
“I’ve been wanting to go into public service since the third grade,” he said.
He added that a discussion about the legislative branch, senators and the House of Representatives captivated his attention because they have real potential to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
“I jokingly say that I changed my career path at that moment, from wanting to be a scientist to wanting to go into public service,” Careaga said.
Gov. Doug Ducey praised Careaga and his prowess for leadership in a press release following the announcement of his appointment.
“Vianney is a dedicated, motivated and talented Arizona student leader,” Ducey said in the press release. “A sophomore in college, he has established himself as a strong champion for civic engagement and a powerful voice for higher education. Vianney has represented his fellow students with distinction and will be a valuable asset to the Board and to our three excellent universities.”
Careaga said he’s been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since 2002, and he spent last year traveling 26,000 miles and visiting more than 20 states as the National Youth Representative for Arizona, Las Vegas and San Diego.
“I have experience working and representing not only my fellow peers, but also adults, and being student regent, you also have to take into consideration the needs of the faculty and the staff at the universities as well,” he said.
Careaga worked this semester alongside other ASUA student leaders to help formulate the Arizona Student Government Collaborative, where he said he was able to build relationships with many of the student leaders at the other universities.
A Tucson native, Careaga graduated from Salpointe Catholic High School located just a few minutes from the UA, where he was made a permanent member of the high school’s Tucson Alumni Council that meets quarterly.
He is currently the alumni secretary and scholarship chairman for his fraternity Phi Delta Theta.
After filling out an application, Vianney said the board’s selection committee, comprised of UA faculty and student leaders, called a select number of applications back for an interview.
The committee then selected four semi-finalists and from there, they were all invited to a semi-finalist dinner to meet with more campus leaders and administrators.
After the committee narrowed the field down to three finalists, they were then invited to the governor’s office where they were subjected to further interviews in order to pick the right person for the position.
Michael Finnegan, current chief of staff to ASUA President Manny Felix, chair of the student regent selection committee and ASUA president-elect, has worked with Careaga before and said he has no doubt in Careaga’s ability to do a great job.
“I think he’ll be an amazing candidate,” Finnegan said. “We’re excited to have a student regent that we can work really closely with. I have the utmost cooperation with Vianney and I’m really excited to work with him in the future.”
The student regent has to be an exemplary student, according to Careaga, adding that he will strive to balance his extracurricular activities, academics and his duties as the student regent.
“It’s much like being a student athlete,” he said. “You’re a student first and an athlete second.”
Careaga said he is excited to have received this nomination. He said there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and he thinks that the more discussions he and the regents will be able to have with students, the more they will understand the challenges the student body faces.
“I think the No. 1 thing is most students don’t know who their direct representatives are,” Careaga said. “Most of them can probably name their student body president, but I can guarantee you most students, even at the [UA] can’t name who their student regent is.”
Student regents serve two-year terms, and there are always two student regents sitting on the board at any given time. The first year of a term is designed to be more observatory and learning-based while the second year, a student regent will be able to exercise the same rights as any of the other regents.
Careaga will fill the vacancy made by the departure of current student regent Mark Naufel, who will be completing his term at the end of this semester.
Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.