How to Become an Effective University Board of Trustee Member

Many people don’t even know what a university board of trustees does, let alone the power they possess. The board of trustees controls everything from academics, budgeting, financial issues, legal issues, athletics, etc. Ultimately, the university president handles the day to day operations of a university, but he is overseen by the board of trustees, and ultimately the chairman of the board of trustees. A university president implements the directives of the board of trustees.

As the name hints, a trustee should be able to be trusted with much responsibility. Getting to know the university and everything it stands for and applying the mission statement to every idea and decision is mandatory. To be successful in this critical position, you must possess business and political skills. In this article, we will discuss the skills that you need to be a good board trustee.

Study and Adapt

There are many reasons that you may have been appointed as a trustee at a university, but that doesn’t mean you are ready to jump right in. First, you will need to learn about the university that you are serving. This means knowing the history, anything the school is involved in and the overall culture of the school. You can find out a bunch of information by chatting with your colleagues and asking questions or by searching the internet.

Look into the background of the school and find out what associations and charities they are involved with. Familiarize yourself with the budget and know how much is going to each program. If you know the universities policies, procedures and overall mission you will be well on your way to becoming a successful trustee. Not need to obsess over learning about your university and its policies, procedures, etc., as new board members always receive a thorough orientation that is designed to bring them up to speed.

Succeed at What You Do

Once you have a grasp on the culture of the university, you will need to dig into the university’s programs. You will need to find out what works, what doesn’t, and what the budget could be better used for. If you find that there is something that is out of the budget, or if there could be a better replacement for it, don’t be afraid to speak up at meetings. This is your job, to find something that isn’t quite working and suggest a better alternative.


Always keep the universities mission in mind when you are making suggestions, never make a recommendation based on what you think personally. Make these suggestions not only with the history of the school in mind but with the university’s future goals in mind as well. It is important to be honest with yourself and with your team, even if it means disagreeing.

It is important to speak up about what you feel is missing or what you think can be improved, as you may be the first to notice. This biggest threat to a universities longevity is a board full of trustees who are effectively yes men, appointed by the board chairman or power brokers in order to further their interests.You can make a huge impact, so go forth with your head held high and take pride in what you do!

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