Interviews conducted by Ryan Thornton.
For the third year in a row, students, faculty and alumni will advocate on behalf of several issues facing higher education institutions to Virginia legislators.
On Jan. 29, Mason Lobbies will visit the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond. According to a fact sheet released by Student Government, the goal of Mason Lobbies is to increase state funding by demonstrating Mason’s growth as an innovative institution.
“Mason Lobbies is a day of advocacy where students, faculty, staff, alumni, and administration join together to collectively advocate for Mason as ‘One Institution with One Voice,’” Kevin Jackson, senior and Mason Lobbies organizer, said.
According to the fact sheet, the event aims to secure state funding for student financial aid, research funds and faculty and staff salaries this year.
“Ultimately, we hope to show the General Assembly that Mason is doing impressive things, and with their support and investment, our institution will be able to continue this positive trajectory,” Jackson said.
Mason Lobbies provides students with the opportunity to discuss and interact with state legislators. According to sophomore and second time attendee Carolina Egli, Mason Lobbies takes government education farther than classrooms and textbooks can by providing an opportunity to directly participate in the process.
“As a government student, it was eye-opening for me to visit the State Capitol and get a glimpse of how lobbying works at the state level,” Egli said. “Mason Lobbies provides insight into the political process that textbooks cannot provide. I was blessed with the opportunity to sit down and share my personal experiences at Mason with Senator Frank Ruff. As a student at GMU, it was rewarding for me to be a part of the policies affecting my school.”
Jackson agreed the trip teaches about the legislative process in a way classrooms cannot.
“This is also a great learning opportunity and exposes the inner workings of the Virginia legislature for those interested in serving in state government in the future,” Jackson said.
Interested students also get a unique opportunity to argue on behalf of any issues that are personally important to them. According to sophomore and first time attendee, Tyler Fisher, Mason Lobbies is an important chance to advocate for specific generation oriented goals. Fisher is president and founder of Common Sense Action, a bipartisan millennial policy organization.
“The millennial population, which is filled with college students, is terribly misrepresented by our elected leaders across the country and efforts like these to advocate a millennial-minded agenda should not be passed up,” Fisher said.
Egli said she prioritizes advocating on behalf of student financial aid, equal rights, community health, environmental friendliness and expanded research funding.
“Colleges have always been the trailblazers for progress and GMU should continue to stand at the forefront of that in today’s age,” Egli said.
While Mason Lobbies can be beneficial for students with an interest in government or passion for politics, the event can also be beneficial and enjoyable for the legislators as well.
“It puts a face to George Mason University when students travel to Richmond. When it comes down to it, the legislators really enjoy meeting with students,” Director of State Government Relations Mark Smith said.
Smith said Mason is not always a priority for legislators who do not represent the Northern Virginia area, but when Mason students travel to Richmond and meet with those legislators it really hits home.
“All of a sudden Senator ‘such and such’ can see why George Mason is an important legislative issue for them,” Smith said.
Mason Lobbies began three years ago, thanks to former Student Body President, Jordan Foster, the goal of convincing Virginia legislators of the importance of investing state funds in Mason.
“By allowing the Mason community to speak to legislators, we remind them of the important role Mason plays in our great commonwealth, not only for students, but also for constituents and the private sector,” Jackson said.