Students spend spring break advocating on Capitol Hill
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 00:03
Over spring break, 27 Miami University students advocated for higher education at the state and national levels, traveling from Oxford, to Columbus and Washington, D.C.
Students met with 122 of the 133 senatorial and representative offices that compose the Ohio legislature.
In their meetings, students expressed gratitude for the current higher education operating budget and encouraged legislators to continue funding levels, according to Lisa Dankovich, director of external relations at Miami and one of the faculty members who accompanied students on the trip.
Dankovich said the students met with legislative staffers as well as elected officials as part of the trip, officially titled Government Relations Network Alternative Spring Break Conference 2013: Exploring Government and Leadership.
Though students were advised by Randi Thomas, director of institutional relations at Miami, a handful of undergraduates planned and organized the meeting schedules. The diverse group of students included two first-years and six seniors, as well as majors from many departments, according to Thomas.
To help officials understand what makes Miami unique and why funding is vital, students discussed their college research, study abroad experiences and undergraduate involvement, according to Thomas.
The students were generally in groups of three, one student representing diversity at Miami, another having a great story of why he or she chose Miami and a third having significant research experience. The latter was a critical element, Thomas said.
“We wanted members of the general assembly to hear their experiences, their Miami ‘eureka’ moments,” Thomas said. “Students reported that members were most interested in our graduation rates, First Miami Credit Union and the emphasis on the undergraduate experience [at Miami]…The house members were able to be with the students and ask candid questions…it gave members an unfettered access from a student perspective.”
Following their visit to Columbus, students went to Washington, D.C. to meet with other legislators, including a timeslot to testify before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education.
Junior Nick Miller was Miami’s lead speaker before the subcommittee. He focused on his experiences at Miami and what his college involvement has meant to him.
“I have a strong interest in government and leadership, and the opportunities to learn about what happens at the legislative level and give back to the school a little bit were very rewarding,” Miller said.
Multiple groups across campus contributed to make the trip possible, including the Parent’s Council, University Affairs and others, according to Dankovich.
“It was really a joint effort by a lot of divisions across campus,” said Dankovich.
Senior Forrest McGuire, another participant, said he was grateful for the opportunity to meet with legislators and staffers to talk about what makes Miami unique and argue why every student should be afforded the same opportunities at Miami as well as other public universities, which is all dependent on how legislators allocate dollars.
“They’re tying in how funding will be allocated based on graduation rates, so we wanted to share how high Miami’s graduation rates have been,” McGuire said.
He said he enjoyed the opportunity to speak on behalf of Miami on a state and national stage.
“It was something out of my comfort zone, and it was an opportunity where I could give something back to the university,” McGuire said. “Instead of going to the beach or going home [for spring break], we advocated for Miami, so that was something really special.”
Thomas said Miami was the only school to participate in a trip of this magnitude.
“I think what [the students on the trip] did shows Miami students’ appreciation of their educational experience,” Thomas said. “They chose to use their spring break time in a non-traditional way, and that really spoke highly of them and the university as a whole.”