Northern Arizona University sophomore Mary Venezia has been appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents, Gov. Janet Napolitano announced this week.

Venezia is a speech communication major and a graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix. At age 19, she’s one of the youngest student regents ever appointed.

“The selection committee was impressed with Mary’s enthusiasm and her extracurricular and philanthropic involvement,” Napolitano said. “She will bring a unique and valuable perspective to the board.”

Venezia was considered for the position after submitting an application to the Arizona Students’ Association in the fall. Student leaders from all three state universities interviewed the candidates and made their recommendations to the Governor’s Office, which conducted the final round of interviews before selecting Venezia.

“I’m excited. Everything is still a big shock,” Venezia said. “Today I got a key to my office, and I just sat there with the lights off. I think soon it will start to sink in.”

When reality does hit, there’s little doubt she will be ready. Having spent the last six months as a member of NAU’s Strategic Planning Council, Venezia has been exposed to a number of important university issues, including funding and budgeting priorities.

“Mary is bright, interested and responsible,” said Pat Haeuser, associate vice president of Planning, Budget and Institutional Research and member of the council. “She’ll be able to take this understanding to the board as it relates to the three state institutions, not just NAU.”

Rick Brandel, dean of students, agreed. “I suspect that what caught the governor’s eye is what catches anyone’s eye who gets a chance to work with her. She’s thoughtful and an excellent listener. She does an excellent job of educating herself on issues; she shows great maturity. Mary will learn a lot as a regent but I know she’ll also contribute a great deal.”

In addition to being a full-time student, Venezia, a resident assistant in Tinsley Hall, is involved in student government as a senator in the School of Communication, and is a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. She has also been actively volunteering for a variety of youth causes that range from working with deaf, blind and disabled preschool children to leading a junior high youth group.

“I’m a true student in every sense,” Venezia said. “I live in the halls, I eat on campus, I use the library…The decisions the regents make affect all of us, and as a student on a very real level I can relate.

“I think we don’t realize how important it is to be involved as students,” she added. “I hope to bring big issues to light and explain how they will affect students, and also be their voice on those issues.”

NAU President John Haeger said that having someone like Venezia serving on the Board of Regents is beneficial for all Arizona students. “Mary is the perfect choice to represent the students at all three universities. Her experiences at NAU have provided her with valuable insight into the workings of the Arizona university system.”

Pending Senate confirmation, which is expected in the next few weeks, Venezia will take her seat on the Board of Regents as a nonvoting member for one year, replacing Edward Hermes from Arizona State University. Hermes moves to the voting position on the board by replacing the University of Arizona’s Benjamin Graff, whose term expires in June. Venezia will be eligible to vote on matters in 2008.