Students travel to Richmond for Advocacy Day
A record number of Radford University students participated in the 2017 Advocacy Day trip to Richmond.
Fifty students traveled to the state capital on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 to advocate for Radford University and engage with state representatives.
Students were joined by Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill; Board of Visitors members Randy Marcus, Mark Lawrence, Jay Brown and Mary Ann Hovis '65 also attended.
On Tuesday, students observed several sub-committee meetings, including those of the House Education and House Appropriations Committees. A group also met with staff of the attorney general's office to learn more about its inner-workings.
"It was really fascinating to witness policy in action," said senior Alan Ward. "Some very important bills were being discussed, and it was exciting to be surrounded by so many decision-makers."
Students also toured the Executive Mansion, home to Virginia's governors since 1813. The same evening, they dined with Del. Joseph Yost '06, M.A. '08 and fellow Radford University alumni Martin Mash '07 and Tyler Lester '15, who all shared their respective experiences about the legislative process in Richmond.
On Wednesday, students were broken into 10 groups to meet with their respective delegates and senators. The fast-paced sessions allowed students to discuss topics and issues important to them, such as financial aid, state job opportunities and the future of higher education. They also shared personal stories and their Radford University experiences.
"I love Radford University, and I wanted to spread the word of all the good things that go on here," said Ward, who has participated in Advocacy Day for the past three years. "It's critical to let our delegates and senators know that the work they do in Richmond has a significant effect on what we do at the university."
Because Ward, of Roanoke, has repeatedly participated in Advocacy Day activities, he said his conversations with the politicians have become "deeper."
"After you start building relationships with them, you step into their offices and they remember who you are and what university you represent. We make a lasting impression," Ward said.
The day was capped by an exciting visit with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol, which students later toured.
Shiza Manzoor, a junior transfer student, said the entire Advocacy Day experience was "phenomenal."
"I loved it so much," she said. "It was insightful and educational. It opened my eyes to the political process. There were moments throughout the trip when everything just clicked."
Manzoor is a media studies major and plans to document the trip in a video. She hopes the video will serve as a tool to teach future participants about Advocacy Day and "make it less intimidating," she said.
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Irvin Clark called the trip "transformative."
"The students had personal and immersing experiences into the Virginia legislative process at a time in the Commonwealth when higher education is facing tough financial challenges," Clark said.