Student Leader Tackles Big Issues
Rusty Mau, elected NC State student body president last April, has a unique opportunity to turn his campus leadership into a master’s degree.
A Park Scholar, Mau received his degree in economics last spring after just three years on campus. He is now pursuing an accelerated master’s degree while also fulfilling his duties as the leader of student government and a member of the Board of Trustees.
“I have a more flexible course load, so I can engage in more of a research component in the accelerated program,” Mau says. “Over the summer, I worked with my faculty mentor, Steve Margolis, to develop a comprehensive syllabus for an independent study course about the economics of higher education, which will incorporate my role as student body president.
“My hope is to leverage the exposure I have to university and state leadership to be able to engage in different topics to be a more effective campus leader.”
The Economics of Higher Ed
Mau, a native of Kansas, is a product of the UNC system, so the biggest part of his election platform was to educate his fellow students about the economics of higher education. His father was a professor of construction management at Western Carolina in Cullowhee throughout Mau’s childhood. He graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva and earned a Park Scholarship to attend NC State.
“One of the reasons I even chose to run for this position is that students at NC State have a lot of influence but no real power,” Mau says. “My goal is to use this office to meet with different levels of elected officials, whether it is on the city, state or federal levels, to let them know students are concerned about the cost of higher education.”
Meeting of Minds
Over the summer, Mau joined more than 90 other campus student leaders for the three-day 2014 National Leadership Summit at the White House, where they participated in discussions with top policy experts, leadership development workshops and policy briefings.
Both college affordability and sexual assault prevention were topics of conversation. Discussions about sexual assaults on campus continued on a statewide basis after the leaders returned from the summit.
“Raising awareness about sexual assault and related issues is one of the critical issues of our education today,” Mau says. “At NC State, we are very fortunate to have an administration, faculty, staff and student body that is committed to being part of the solution. Other schools might not be as open to admitting that there is a problem, but we know here that every student has the fundamental right to feel safe on their campus.
“If we don’t ensure that right, we are facing some serious concerns and are not positively influencing our student body.”
Dollars and Sense
Mau has served as a practice player for the NC State women’s basketball team, a student government senator from the Poole College of Management, a chancellor’s aide and the co-chair of the Krispy Kreme Challenge. One of the issues he wants to highlight to his fellow students is economic life skills that are relatively unaddressed in elementary, secondary or college curricula.
“I would like to implement a financial literacy lecture series that gets at the heart of the basic financial concepts that everyone is expected to know but never really learns in their first 22 years of life,” Mau says. “We talk about balancing checkbooks, but there are less talked about subjects like getting a mortgage, retirement plans, ROTH IRAs, the importance of saving young and early – the soft life skills we never learn.”
The Students’ Voice
Mau is already adept at working with other university leaders, from Chancellor Randy Woodson, to members of the Board of Trustees to elected faculty, staff and graduate student representatives.
“While we know that both the Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors are the decision makers, we have a very strong structure of shared governance here,” Mau says. “We have great ownership of what we do on campus.
“We have monthly meetings with the chairs of the student senate, faculty senate, staff senate, university graduate student association and myself. We really take a few hours to sit down and talk about what each of us is working on, bounce ideas off each other or discuss things as simple as students moving back and traffic concerns.”
Mau is undaunted by the challenges of the coming year, when he will be active as a student leader and as a student. It’s all part of the education he was looking for when he came down from the Great Smoky Mountains three years ago to pursue his degree in economics.
“This is probably some of the most rewarding and engaging academic education that I have received at NC State,” he says.