Engineering student Neal Bitsie was sworn in last month as the newest student member of the New Mexico State University Board of Regents.
The Board of Regents is the highest governing body at NMSU and is somewhat unique nationally in that it always includes one student. The board currently comprises five members, including Bitsie, all of whom were appointed by the governor of New Mexico.
Kokopelli staff reporter Ivan Sanchez sat down this week with Mr. Bitsie to discuss his recent appointment to the board and what he hopes to accomplish between now and December 2022, when his term expires.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Sanchez: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you’re from, what you’re studying, etc.?
Bitsie: My name is Neal Bitsie. I am a fourth-year student here at NMSU. I am studying engineering physics with a focus in mechanical [engineering]. I am also pursuing a supplemental major in applied mathematics and a minor in aerospace engineering. I am the latest person in my family to attend NMSU, and when I graduate, I will be the 15th person [in my family] to earn a bachelor’s degree from NMSU.
“I would love to see an increase in undergraduate research opportunities here at NMSU, increased revenue through public-private partnerships, and an increase in opportunities and resources for student and faculty mental health [services].”
Sanchez: What do you feel you can bring to the board in an effort to fulfill your position’s purpose?
Bitsie: First and foremost, it will be my job to take the frustrations and concerns and anger of the student body up to the highest of decision makers within the NMSU system. It’s not my responsibility to lead a student movement or to accomplish everything for every student, but I can use my unique access to get information out of the administration and give it to the students who can use it best. In my opinion, a leader is best when people barely know they exist. When their work is done, their aim fulfilled, others will say: “We did it ourselves.” If I can do that by the end of my term, then I will have succeeded in the role.
Sanchez: How are you liking your time on the board of regents?
Bitsie: I’m loving it. Recently, I’ve been feeling myself for the first time in a long time. It keeps me busy and allows me to dedicate effort to a cause that I know makes a difference.
Sanchez: What is an average day like for you as the student on the board of regents?
Bitsie: My day isn’t too different from the average student’s. I would say the biggest difference is that I have an office and I have, on average, a meeting or two with university administrators every day. Although, I use my office for studying far more than I use it for “official” university business.
Sanchez: What specifically do you want to accomplish as the student on the board of regents? What do you want your legacy to be?
Bitsie: I would love to see an increase in undergraduate research opportunities here at NMSU, increased revenue through public-private partnerships, and an increase in opportunities and resources for student and faculty mental health [services].
Sanchez: Where do you see yourself in the future? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?
Bitsie: Upon graduating from NMSU, it is a goal of mine to attend another family tradition university — Purdue University — for graduate school. Beyond graduate school, I would like to work in a Department of Defense national laboratory, serve on the board of a sustainable energy holding or defense contracting company, and later one day serve in public office to economically advance the state of New Mexico.
Sanchez: How will you look back on your experience and involvement in all the extracurricular activities at NMSU, and especially the board of regents?
Bitsie: During my time here at NMSU I have been involved in several organizations including ASNMSU, Atomic Aggies, Rotaract Club, just to name a few, and I am currently an active member of Sigma Chi fraternity. I can’t yet say how all of the things I’ve been involved in have shaped and formed me. What I can say is the people I’ve met and the experiences I have had have given me clarity, perspective, insight and compassion.