The 2013 Domenici Public Policy Conference brought together top students from around the state, ranging from undergraduates to doctoral candidates, to listen to and ask questions of top policymakers. Student panelists, including six from the University of New Mexico, were matched with speakers working in fields or on topics of personal and professional interest; ranging from energy, to diplomacy, to healthcare, to challenges facing the state of New Mexico according to Gov. Susana Martinez at the conference held at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M. recently.
Students, who have been preparing since August, were well versed on speaker expertise and policy positions. This familiarity with the background of the speakers allowed them to ask challenging questions like that posed to John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He was asked about the certainty of Assad perpetrated chemical attacks against rebels, after he likened the shared interest of the United States and Russia to that of the Police and Mafia.
At one point Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, commanding general of White Sands Missile Range, while fielding a question on sustainability and material recovery lightheartedly scolded a student for a question premised on the closing of the installation. All in all, the UNM students including Holly Marquez, Nico Cooper, Earl Shank, Nicole Devereaux, Veena Patel and Chandni Sharma, represented UNM well. They worked hard to study issues leading up to the conference and delivered thought provoking questions to the speakers.
Throughout, Sen. Pete Domenici availed himself to students, and it became abundantly clear the type of elected official Domenici was. Few policymakers have built relations on both sides of the isle, and the conference high lightened the types of meaningful working friendships he has created in his years of public service leadership.