TWU’s first graduate Student Regent finds a voice for herself, others
Commuter student Dawna-Diamond Tyson found a way to apply herself while living off-campus.
Dawna-Diamond Tyson never considered herself a model high school student.
“I was full of distractions,” said Tyson. She was planning to go to college, but did not know if she was college material. Her mom intervened.
“My mother is my biggest advocate,” she added. “I’m sure that’s hard for a mother to see a child not be ambitious. She knew that I wasn’t focused on anything, and so she pushed me to go to college because she wanted me to try.”
Things changed when Tyson enrolled at Texas Woman’s University as a transfer student from Collin College.
“Whenever I came here, I didn’t know what to get involved with. I kind of felt alone,” said Tyson, who commutes from Frisco. “I wasn’t on campus as much. My car, while amazing, was experiencing mechanical issues, and it was too far of a drive. However, my last semester, I said I’m not going to leave here, graduate and not be involved.”
She started with New Leadership Texas, an intensive summer residency institute that teaches women about political leadership roles. She joined the Student Government Association’s Student Senate, first as a non-traditional senator, representing transfers, commuters, veterans, student parents and others who don’t fit the traditional freshman model. And then, she was appointed as senate pro tempore, the unit’s No. 2 spot, before finishing her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in December 2019.
But even then, she wanted to do more.
Now in pursuit of a master’s degree in political science, Tyson holds, arguably, TWU’s highest student role: Student Regent. She is the first graduate student in TWU history to hold that post. While not a voting member, she acts as a voice for students on the Denton, Dallas and Houston campuses to TWU’s Board of Regents and represents TWU at the highest levels within Texas higher education.
Additionally, she is a Jamison Research Fellow, helping Wouter van Erve, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Clare Brock, Ph.D., both assistant professors in the Department of History and Political Science, with their research. She added that graduate school has its own challenges now that her professors have been more stringent in their requirements.
“I love that about graduate school—the critique. It means a lot,” she said.
Tyson knows not all students know they have a designee—she didn’t, at first. When she discovered the role, she had one week to apply.
“I had all of these negative thoughts just hitting me. Am I good enough? Oh, they’re probably looking for someone who has a skin color different from mine,” she said.
Still, she applied. Then began the long wait—lengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was praying literally every single day,” said Tyson, who was appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in June 2020. However, with nearly everything online, she didn’t know how to engage students. A regent at another school suggested she initiate contact.
“The idea was there; I just wasn’t looking at the possibilities. Now I wake up thinking, what am I going to do for students?” she said.
So far, she has hosted live panels to address student needs and concerns. She also opened a TWU Instagram profile, an idea from past regent Emily Roper.
“It is important for them to have a safe, comfortable space to speak about grievances,” said Tyson, who focuses on students’ mental wellbeing.
With successor applications open, Tyson hopes the next appointee finds their own unique niche.
“Ultimately, you should make your own job description,” she said. “I want them to go in with the idea of creating something new—to figure out how they should help students.”
Learn about the application for the 2021-2022 Student Regent position and apply online. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.
Page last updated 3:20 PM, November 16, 2021