Students advocate for higher education at Mason Lobbies
January 25, 2019 / by Mariam Aburdeineh
Important things are worth getting up early for. That’s why 50 students from George Mason University are excited for Mason Lobbies on Wednesday, Jan. 30, when they’ll board a bus before the sun comes up in Fairfax to meet with their state representatives in Richmond. At the Virginia State Capitol, they’ll promote the university and advocate for student needs, higher education and Mason’s legislative priorities.
Mason Student Body Vice President Erik Truong, a senior majoring in government and international politics; Executive Chief of Staff of Student Government Adanna Newby, a junior majoring in psychology; and Executive Secretary of University Life Brendan P. Sullivan, a senior Honors College member majoring in history, are a few of the students attending this year. Here’s what they had to say about Mason Lobbies:
Why are you attending Mason Lobbies?
Truong: As the largest public university in Virginia, we want to ensure that Mason (and higher education as a whole) is prioritized. Everything starts with a good working relationship, and we’re eager to go down and meet with our representatives face-to-face. We believe that with enough students, we can show our passion for quality higher education funding.
Newby: The most rewarding part of attending Mason Lobbies last year was getting the opportunity to speak to state legislators about the problems that affect our school. Speaking with them about the importance of providing Mason with more funding so that we can continue to provide a wonderful college experience for our students means a lot to me, and I walked away from every conversation feeling hopeful. [This year], I hope that we are able to receive the funding that we’re requesting. And I hope state legislators continue to be impressed with our dedication to Mason.
Sullivan: The representatives are extremely kind and engaging with us students and truly care [about] what we have to say. Not only are they compassionate, but they are personable to us as well, which makes the experience even more memorable.
What issues are you advocating for this year?
Truong: Increased state funding for scholarships, financial aid and research. As a student, these issues are incredibly important to me. While Mason is more accessible than many other schools, higher education has become more expensive to afford. This is especially difficult when higher education is necessary for a career rather than a mere “add-on.”
Newby: [We’re also advocating for] faculty and staff compensation and funds for Mason to support our new ADVANCE partnership with NOVA! All of this is important and should be important to every student—especially the lobbying for an increase in financial aid. College is not cheap, and we should take advantage of every opportunity to receive more aid.
What have you learned from Mason Lobbies?
Newby: What I learned from attending Mason Lobbies was how to properly communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds. I feel that it’s an invaluable skill that I’ll keep forever.
Sullivan: The most valuable lesson I have learned is not one on the systems of government and lobbying, but one about networking and professionalism. It has taught me that in this day and age of technology, the best manner to achieve goals is to create meaningful relationships with partners and engaging in conversation face-to-face.
What’s the biggest misconception about Mason Lobbies?
Newby: You don’t have to be part of Student Government to attend! Mason Lobbies is open to any student that’s interested in making a difference. It’s also a lot of fun to be part of!