Twenty university students, including eight from UNM, were chosen to take part in the 2012 Domenici Public Policy Conference, Sept. 19 and 20 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. The UNM students are Richard Baca, Iric Guthrie, Mark Kunzman, Sunny Liu, Keioshiah Peter, Ehben Reed, Lauren Salvato and Jacob Wellman.

The specially selected students from UNM, New Mexico State University and Northern New Mexico College will be the only audience members allowed to ask questions of presenters at the Domenici conference. This year's conference speakers include campaign strategist James Carville, former President George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes, Colorado Rockies co-owner Linda Alvarado and former 9/11 Commission member Michael Hurley. The themes addressed are the 2012 elections, national security and entrepreneurship.

When the Domenici conference debuted in 2008, any member of the audience could ask questions of speakers. However, because the Domenici Institute for Public Policy is housed on the NMSU campus, conference organizers wanted students to have a meaningful connection to the event, and the Domenici Student Panelist program was born.

"Student participation integrates the academic experience into conference activities and provides students with an excellent lesson in civic participation," said Garrey Carruthers, dean of NMSU's College of Business and director of the Domenici Institute. "Since students are the only conference participants allowed to ask questions of the presenters, their selection to serve on the panel is an important and detailed process."

Only students nominated by faculty members or administrators from their universities were considered for the panel. A committee of the Domenici Institute Advisory Council then reviewed the nominations.

"The nominated students clearly represented a highly qualified group of individuals," said Ramon Dominguez, an associate professor of education at NMSU and chair of the Domenici Institute Advisory Council committee that selected the student panelists. "The committee discussed, debated and struggled to make the final selections because the nominees all had amazing credentials."

For the first time, the Domenici Conference student panelists will be receiving a financial reward for their work. As part of a $10,000 sponsorship by U.S. Bank, each student panelist will receive a $250 U.S. Bank Visa gift card. Along with the gift cards, U.S. Bank's sponsorship of the student panelist program pays for the students' hotel accommodations in Las Cruces and an orientation banquet.

The 2012 Domenici Public Policy Conference costs $50 to attend. Online registration for the conference begins Aug. 1 at The event is free to NMSU students. For more information or to receive an invitation by mail, call the Domenici Institute at (575) 646-2066.