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    University Students Meet With Legislators To Advocate For Higher Education

    April 12, 2022

    During the week of April 4-8 seven University of Scranton students met with local legislators as a part of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) Advocacy Week 2022. This annual event offers students from Pennsylvania’s over 90 AICUP schools an opportunity to meet face to face with PA state legislators, engage in advocacy work, and to share their own stories and experiences of the impact that PA state funding has made on their educational journeys.

    This annual event typically takes place in the Capitol building in Harrisburg, PA, however this year the event shifted to a hybrid format. The University of Scranton elected to hold this year’s legislative meetings in-person in the legislator’s district offices and on campus. This new format offered students a chance to go to see the various district offices of legislators, meet with the legislators and their staff, and to learn more about the local greater Scranton area.

    “Having the opportunity to engage with our local state legislators was a great experience. They truly care for the students of PA and are working to ensure our continued success by keeping higher education affordable,” said Kiera Flannery ‘24.

    Legislators and their staff generously gave their time and attention to the important issues that the University students raised regarding the impact PA state funding makes for students at independent nonprofit colleges and universities.

    “Getting to meet with local officials as a representative for AICUP was a great experience! I got to advocate for funding for higher education all while making personal connections with members of the political sphere. I learned a lot about the field and developed an even deeper passion for entering advocacy and government work,” said Ana Postowski ‘24.

    In addition to offering University of Scranton students the opportunity to advocate for a cause that directly impacts them, students also were able to engage with legislators in a personal way.

    "As a native of Scranton, meeting with local legislators was a new and exciting experience. The legislators were welcoming and engaged in our lives at the University of Scranton. Advocacy week presented us with advice for the future and a genuine view of the officials we are voting for," said Olivia Hudak ‘24.

    For students attending colleges and universities issues of scholarships and funding are critical to making attending these institutions possible.

    "I was raised in a family that values education so meeting with my state representative was a priority. To me it was about advocating for many other young people to be able to get into institutions of higher learning with help from state funding; it was very important to me as a beneficiary of a University scholarship because without external support it is financially difficult to go to college. It was also an opportunity for me to share with the legislator some of my story of coming to this country as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the value of a college education,” said Ushu Mukelo ’22.

    In addition to being able to directly share the difference that Pennsylvania state funding makes on the ability to access higher education, students also witness the impact of civic engagement.

    “My participation in AICUP Advocacy week has given me first-hand experience with lobbying for a cause I feel passionate about. Meeting with local state representatives has made me realize how easily I can make a difference in my community,” said Elizabeth Wescoe ’23.

    It was a powerful experience for students to engage directly with legislators in conversations about the issues that are a part of their everyday lives.

    “This experience was extremely insightful in realizing the importance of political engagement in your local community. From bonding over our shared experience of being a student at ‘the U’ to discussing favorite local spots, local legislators can better understand your personal story. Being a first-year political science major, this was my first experience with meeting legislators. Not only did this ‘humanize’ the people behind politics and policy, but also, I believe that, for them, putting a face to the constituent makes advocating for issues more impactful than simply advocating for a statistic or a number,” said Karla Shaffer ’24.

    Carolyn M. Bonacci, community and civic engagement coordinator, served as this year’s campus coordinator in the Office of Community & Government Relations and collaborated with Crystal Ondrick, assistant director of financial aid, to help prepare students in advance of their legislative meetings. Students also joined a pre-meeting hosted by AICUP to learn more about advocacy work.

    “It is my hope that participating in events like AICUP Advocacy Week will empower University of Scranton students to see the impact that their voices can make not only within the local community but also more broadly on the causes and issues that students care about most. I believe that having the opportunity to speak directly with our local legislators truly was an invaluable experience for the students, with many noting that this experience reinforced their passion for political science and civic engagement,” said Bonacci.

    The University of Scranton is grateful to Rep. Mike Carroll, Rep. Kyle Mullins, Rep. Bridget Koseiroski, Rep. Thom Welby, and Nolan Trently, Scranton office director for Sen. Marty Flynn, for their participation in this year’s event.

    AICUP Advocacy Week 2022 University of Scranton student participants:

    Kiera Flannery, class of 2024, political science major, legal studies concentration

    Olivia Hudak, class of 2024, English major, philosophy minor, legal studies concentration 

    Ushu Mukelo, class of 2022, political science major

    Conor Nealon, class of 2022, political science and strategic communications double major

    Ana Postowski, class of 2024, political science major, philosophy and public policy and service minors

    Karla Shaffer, class of 2024, political science major, environmental studies concentration  

    Elizabeth Wescoe, class of 2023, political science major, history minor, environmental studies concentration

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