The Working Waterfront

Islesboro’s Olivia Britton serving on UMaine board

Second-year student represents other students

By Steffi Victoria
Posted 2024-03-18
Last Modified 2024-03-18

This story first appeared in The Maine Campus, the University of Maine’s student newspaper, and is reprinted with permission and gratitude.

Public institutions, and the boards that manage them, can too easily lose sight of the concerns and perspectives of those who are served by the organization. In the case of the University of Maine, the board of trustees aims to avoid that fate by including a student representative as a member.

Currently, that seat is held by Olivia Britton of Islesboro. Britton’s role is to amplify student perspectives before trustees finalize decisions affecting campus life.

“The decisions that happen at the board level, even though they are sometimes complicated and a little bit confusing, affect our everyday lives.”

Britton is a second-year civil engineering and political science student. Initially, she was interested in UMaine student government but a recent board report summarizing ongoing projects captured her attention.

“I learned a bunch of things that I did not know were happening on campus and system wide,” she said. “I want that information to be as accessible as possible.”

Britton aims to improve what she sees as information-sharing inconsistencies between trustees and students, as well as serving as an “access point” for the student body to feel heard.

Olivia Britton
Olivia Britton

“The decisions that happen at the board level, even though they are sometimes complicated and a little bit confusing, affect our everyday lives,” Britton said, referencing recent board discussions about campus housing and dining. “It’s important for student voices to be heard in those conversations.”

Student board representatives are the go-between for students with questions and recommendations for trustees to consider before finalizing executive actions.

Recently, Britton met with student government executives and senators to address concerns raised at the Jan. 29 trustees meeting.

“It was clear that students were confused and wanted to know what was happening,” Britton explained, citing the conversion of the Estabrooke dorm into an office facility. “It’s a bummer that space won’t be for students anymore.”

Other dormitories are being renovated, and Hart and Hancock halls, which are also dorms, will soon occupy additional spaces to improve living standards by featuring single-use bathrooms, kitchen areas, and other facility advancements.

“I can’t wait for students to have that space,” Britton said.

The dorm renovation plans were not available for public review before the Jan. 29 trustee executive session. Students criticized the board’s decision on Estabrooke Hall.

“It’s really unfortunate that the information did not all come out at the same time because it, rightfully so, felt like things were being taken away from students,” Britton said.

She strives to cultivate a community network with other student representatives and leaders throughout the University of Maine system, she added, and works to grow as a leader in her new role.

“I’m excited to make a really strong foundation for the other representatives to be as effective as they can,” she said. “I want to do as much listening to the student body as I can because they spend more time here than I do and have a better understanding of what their needs are,” she said.

Britton explained that her top priority in this position is to regularly consult with students, offering them a receptive avenue to raise important issues before sharing them with trustees.

“Before I come up with my own changes, I want to do a good job of listening first. I would love to hear any thoughts about what life is like on campus and questions about where money is being spent and how decisions are being made,” she said.

Britton’s active membership of the executive board of undergraduate student government entails attending every board meeting with other UMaine system campus representatives, including eight-hour sessions which convene once every two months, and attending the senate, executive, and cabinet meetings. She then submits her reports to the UMaine student government.

All student members of the board are appointed for a single two-year term. Britton will fulfill her term requirements by spring 2025.

Britton is also a member of the Society for Women Engineers and Partners for World Health. In addition, she serves as the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) chair in the Chi Omega Sorority.