Mason students lobby state government in Richmond

Students, faculty and alumni from George Mason University pose with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on the steps of the Capitol Building (photo courtesy of Student Government).
Students, faculty and alumni from George Mason University pose with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on the steps of the Capitol Building (photo courtesy of Student Government).

On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Mason Student Government led a group of students, faculty and alumni to the state capitol in Richmond to lobby state politicians on behalf of the university.

Junior Savannah Edwards, student government’s Secretary of MASON, and Vice President Jordan Foster began planning for Mason Lobbies in September 2012.

“Months ago we started coming up with an idea that we wanted lobbying to have a bigger place at Mason,” Edwards said in a statement to students, alumni and faculty.

While members of the student government have lobbied in Richmond before, this is the first year the trip was open to non-members. Registration for the trip began in November 2012 followed by training sessions for those planning to attend. In total, 43 students from Mason and 15 alumni attended the event.

“Our main goal for Lobby Day is getting a greater presence in Richmond,” Edwards said in an interview. “To give students the opportunity to share stories so delegates have a better connection to what’s going on.”

The two charter buses of students arrived at the Virginia capital at 8:30 a.m., and began the day at an orientation with President Ángel Cabrera.

“Democracy is messy, it’s noisy, it’s complex. But in a very deep way, it’s amazing,” Cabrera said in a short address. “You’re going to be a part of the process today.”

Cabrera then introduced Virginia’s Secretary of Education Laura Fornash.

“We are so proud of George Mason at the state level for all the great things going on at your institution,” Fornash said.

The students also heard from Delegates David Ramadan (87th district) and Michael Webert (18th district), both Mason alumni.

Following the orientation, attendees broke into groups to meet with the state legislators from the different regions of Virginia. Student Body President Alex Williams, Junior Devon Flynn, Professor Alok Berry and Associate Director of Student Organizations Sara Morrisroe met with delegates Barbara Comstock (R) and Alfonso Lopez (D) from Fairfax.

Williams and Flynn shared stories of their personal connections with Mason and Berry, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, stressed the importance of the university in the high-tech business environment of the surrounding community.

“We need more support so that we can do more work,” Berry said.

Delegate Comstock complimented Mason on the work ethic of its students, claiming she hires many legislative aids and campaign managers from the law school. Comstock’s daughter is a graduate student at Mason.

Delegate Lopez also had a strong personal connection to Mason. His father graduated from Mason and his wife is on the advisory board for the Arlington campus.

After meeting with the delegates, the Mason lobbyists headed to the Capitol Building for a group photo with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Cabrera was then introduced to the Senate and House sessions before the group headed back to the Fairfax campus. Cabrera remained in Richmond to continue speaking with representatives.

“Students enjoyed a day of new experiences, alumni members were proud of the Mason spirit and legislative offices were excited to hear from us,” Edwards said in an email. “We met our goal and really did what was most important; we showed the Virginia Legislature that Mason has a large and energetic presence!”



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