Advocacy Day in Washington DC: Representing Cornell in the Halls of the Senate & the House
It is safe to say I have had to contain my jealousy since arriving at CIPA. I love to travel, and especially love to travel with a purpose, so it has been challenging watching so many of my esteemed colleagues fly or drive off to Cornell-sanctioned events over the course of the year.
Many have traveled to compete in case competitions around the country (and done very well!), while others have taken the Consulting course and traveled to sites around the country to work with their clients. And then there were the CIPA groups that went to Dubai for a World Government Summit, to Poland for the UNCOP, and to Seoul for a Comparative Case course. Last week, I finally had my opportunity to leave Ithaca AND further some personal career and MPA goals, while acting on behalf of the interests of grad students at Cornell.
Where did I go? Why, Washington D.C., of course!
Cornell has a federal relations office in D.C., with an excellent staff, which advocates on behalf of all of Cornell for many different issues; you won’t be surprised to hear that education funding is one enormous issue that gets a huge amount of their attention. I was selected to represent Cornell’s Graduate and Professional Students during the annual Advocacy Day, along with seven other students from a variety of disciplines (though there were three of us from CIPA). We traveled to D.C. and had a great dinner with Cornell Alum Terry Horner who shared his love for Cornell with us.
The next day we walked many miles and talked with Congressmen and Congresswomen and their staffs about funding for higher education, and graduate funding in particular. I was thrilled to be walking the halls of the Senate and House, taking the walkways under and between the buildings, and mostly to give voice to some of the funding needs present in so many of our lives as graduate students.
I didn’t have high expectations for responses from the eight offices our team talked with, but every staff member treated us with respect, and fully listened to what we were saying. Some meetings were more rushed than others, but the representatives always took their time to make notes, and to consider how or when the issues we addressed might be represented in legislation.
I had the great fortune to be able to meet with Congressman Newhouse from my district. I don’t see eye-to-eye with him politically but we talked for a considerable amount of time (DC time, which runs substantially faster than Ithaca time) about issues that are near and dear to my heart, in addition to federal education funding. He was kind and considerate and asked good questions, and I was grateful that he took time from his schedule to meet with me.
I am grateful the Graduate Student Office for Inclusion and Student Engagement and Cornell Federal Relations office gave me this chance to interact with my government representatives so directly, and was once again impressed with the skill and talent of Cornell students and staff alike. I look forward to representing Cornell in the future at home or abroad, if given the chance—I’m looking for opportunities now!
Sarah Brown is a first-year CIPA student. An organic farmer from Washington State, she spent last year in a small village in Hungary as a Fulbright Fellow, studying rural social innovation. She has come to CIPA hoping to build her tool-kit, which will allow her to be more effective in pushing a positive agenda for social change. Sarah has brought her two elementary-aged children with her to Ithaca and is single-parenting these two years while her husband stays behind to work in Washington.