Students Speak Out at UVM Day at the Statehouse

The sixth annual UVM Day at the Statehouse was am opportunity for students tohave their voices heard by speaking with state legislatures. The day took place on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Statehouse in Montpelier, which included a breakfast reception, tours of the State House, addresses from the State Treasurer, Governor Douglas, and members of the UVM Board of Trustees, and lunch with legislators. “The energy, enthusiasm, and participation exceeded my expectations.” said Diane Trono Government Relations Associate. “In the past we have had as many as 18 legislators (involved). To increase?that number by four times was amazing.” Sixty-eight students were signed up to attend the day, invited from a number of organizations Student participation has increased from last year where twenty-six students went. Student groups that were represented included; Advocats, Student Government, Community Service Scholars Program, VIA (Volunteers in Action), Green and Gold Scholars, Vermont Scholars, Student Ambassadors, and ALANA students. The students spoke with a number of government officials and members of the UVM Board of Trustees, including Governor Douglas, Lieutenant Governor Dubie, State Treasurer Spaulding. “I’m impressed. The students were up to date and they had interesting perspectives.” said State Treasurer Spaulding after his question and answer session with UVM students. “The more they can interact with legislatures and other policy makers the better the support for university. The students reflected well on the university.” “Legislators and other state officials genuinely seemed interested in what we had to say.” said Maggie Gage after her third visit to the Statehouse. “They portrayed a true interest in the issues that students viewed as the most pressing in the coming fiscal years.” Governor Douglas spoke to the students about a variety of topics, such as his support for a two percent increase in state appropriation for UVM. “Governor Douglas was very funny and very upbeat.” said Jason Williams, sophomore, Co-Coordinator of UVM Day at the Statehouse. “It was great to see Governor Douglas there and interested in the student’s questions. This year all the pieces came together so that all the highest ranking officials were there.” The panel of legislators who also spoke to the students and took questions included Lt. Governor Dubie, and were also members of the UVM Board of trustees, Margaret Hummel, Malcolm Severance, Martha Heath, and Richard Hube. “All three of Vermont’s highest offices addressed the UVM representatives freely engaging in open dialog about issues that concerned us as citizens and students, including the upcoming budget process.” Rob Hunt, senior “The legislators were both gracious and enthusiastic and were exceptionally candid with regard to policy making decisions.” Legislators met and had lunch with students, opening another forum by which students could express their thoughts . Beyond this, however, legislators were able to give their perspectives and answer students questions on a one on one basis. “I know that my legislators, whom I met with for lunch, They could not get enough of what I had to say about the University, Vermont, and the world in general.” said Maggie Gage. “I think UVM Day at the Statehouse is a very unique opportunity to speek with legislatures who can make decisions.” said Laura Megivern, sophomore, Community service Scholar and VIA member. “One of the greatest things is that government is very accessible for constituents.” “One of the greatest attributes of being a UVM student is the unique access we have to Vermont’s public leaders. UVM day at the Statehouse only served to validate this ideal..” said Rob Hunt. President Fogel also attended. “The fact that the president was there to support the students was great.” said Jason Williams. “His being there added legitimacy as well as financial backing for the day.” “This day was very successful.” said Karen Meyer, Director of the Office of State and Federal Relations. “The thing that’s important to this office is that the students and the President’s office made a positive impression on legislatures. I’m really happy students participated”. “From my experience in years past, the legislators brought their own agenda to the table, and addressed the issues they saw as important.” said Maggie Gage. “I felt much more emphasis was put on the students this year.” “Last year was great but this year was amazing” said Jason Williams. “I left with a good feeling in my stomach having made even more of a connection to my University and the State. I would like to assume that they too at the Statehouse gained a new found respect and understanding of UVM students. I hope to go back next year.” Lindsay Wyld, junior, Advocat. The day ended with a standing ovation for the students from the House of Representatives. “This was one of the best UVM Days at the Statehouse yet. I would hope that we would have the same participation nex year.” Diane Trono.