Students from the University of Nebraska system defended the university system’s budget request with their personal stories at the Nebraska state Capitol on March 27.
“I Love NU Advocacy Day” gave students a chance to tell state senators what they can do to improve higher education and why their schools are important before the senators vote to allocate funds to the university.
Former president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska Hunter Traynor and current president Emily Johnson represented the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at the Capitol and said they felt the impact of their presence and testimonies.
“It was an energizing, empowering day, and most senators I talked to were generally happy to fund the [u]niversity,” Johnson said in a text.
Student participation in events like the advocacy day personalize the university to state senators, she said.
Traynor said the day showed senators the human side of the university, and gave them the chance to hear student stories about UNL’s impact.
“When [senators] can hear from students and put a face to the impact and personalize it and hear anecdotes about, ‘Well, this is how the university has affected me in my everyday life’ — that really adds another layer to the rosy picture I think we’re trying to paint about why the University of Nebraska is so important to the state,” he said.
He said he and others talked to some senators who ardently support NU and others who are more reluctant to fund one of the state’s largest budget requests.
Traynor encouraged all students to civically engage through events like NU Advocacy Day because it can build up students’ confidence when talking to people who can appear intimidating, like senators.
Sarah Weisbecker, a senior political science and sociology double major, told senators about the solidarity she’s felt during her time at UNL. She said the efforts around Nebraska’s recent flooding show the kinship goes past campus to encompass the whole state.
“One of my favorite things about the university is the community that you get from not only being a Husker, but from being a Nebraskan,” she said. “This has been shown recently with everything happening within the state — Huskers and Nebraskans support each other and are there for each other and I am honored to be a part of this community.”
Zak Folchert, a sophomore biological sciences major, said UNL and the opportunities it has given him have made him the person he is today.
“It really has empowered me to be the best person I can be,” he said. “It has helped me develop what I want to be in life and to be more successful.”
Jeffrey Owusu-Ansah, a junior international business major and ASUN’s former external vice president, focused on UNL’s people and passions in his comments to senators.
“What I love about the university is the people. I don’t think that there are many places that there is such a strong sense of community with such a drive for excellence,” he said. “UNL has provided not only me with an education, but the opportunity to get to know such a diverse group of people. Students from Rwanda and China; it’s truly just remarkable the amount of stories that have been told by all these people.”