Public Policy and Professional Competencies: Student Lobbyist Training

naspa divisions groups public policy division

Marcus Rodriguez, NASPA Public Policy Division – Region VI Representative

April 27, 2018

A growing activist mentality of student leaders will continue testing our campus support and response systems. And, as we reinforce the values of our institutions, respond to the recommendations of the 2012 A Crucible Moment report, and consider the CLDE emergent theory of change, we'll be asked to more fully demonstrate our development of student leaders already active in the civic space (Civic-Minded Graduate Rubric 2.0 © Weiss, H.A., Hahn, T., and Norris, K. (2017)).

While prolific in the high profile arenas of protest and demonstration, students have also increased their consumption of, and are reacting more regularly to, public policy. And, when introduced to tools and resources, student activists are eager to take formal stances on current and pending legislation. Activists have begun to use measures such as phone banks and office visits to target bills while they're still in committee. Social media lobbying campaigns have mobilized previously disengaged groups, and open source activist toolkits are popping up around the web. But, most notably, there's an increased effort to institutionalize on-campus Lobby Corps, an organized network of student advocates active in the public sphere.

“Lobby Corps is an organization that strives to unite activism, professionalism, and strategic planning to advocate for student needs. We strive to represent student interests in political institutions by fighting for student rights, people-powered democracy, and affordable, accessible, and quality higher education for all. Lobby Corps seeks to mirror the unique, diverse, and forward thinking nature of the UCSB community, and advocate for student needs – be it in Washington D.C., or Isla Vista.” - UC Santa Barbara Lobby Corps

Beyond setting up resource pages that include voter registration prompts, public policy priority lists, lobbying research tools, and activity planning templates (ASI Sacramento State), students are now producing high quality messaging via social media and online videos (AS California State University, Long Beach). In turn, development opportunities like the Student Lobby Conference and the California Higher Education Summit are providing participants training on governance, public policy, and successful lobbying practice. Within these spaces, students are also collaborating and networking with both legislators and other student activists.

Student affairs professionals are also, in their own right, civically active and increasingly engaged. This work is done through a number of measures such as advising on resolutions, civic action plans, voter registration, and co-curricular activities. Last week, the chancellor of the largest public four-year system of higher education in the U.S. sent a call to action to both students and professionals.

"Our future is now clearly and unambiguously in the hands of lawmakers. I ask you to join with me as we sustain our advocacy efforts and close out the annual budget cycle in Sacramento strongly. I look for your continued support as we emphasize to our state leaders that full funding for the California State University is key to California’s future." - CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White

Although this is issue-specific, as it relates to funding, it demonstrates an expectation that we have systems in place to educate and mobilize students and stakeholders in the vested interest of higher education policy and protections. And, while the PPD will continue to develop members’ professional competencies in order to engage effectively in public policy conversations (NASPA 2017-2020 Public Policy Agenda), it's crucial that we encourage the student connection and an adaption of these proficiencies for the development of student lobbyists.

The Public Policy Division is ready to connect, in a more meaningful way, with members training students to influence policy and colleagues working with the next generation of career politicians.

In June, we’ll be attending the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting and sitting down with student government activists to discuss, among other things, student leader development and lobbying efforts. If you’re planning on attending the meeting, please join us for this event.



BREAKFAST PANEL - The Student Government Activist: Facilitating Real Democratic Engagement

Saturday, June 9 from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m.

Today's students are more politically active than ever before. According to a study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, 1 in 10 college students expect that they will participate in a protest or demonstration at least once during their academic career - the highest the survey had recorded since it began in 1967. Which raises the question: How are we supporting students who see activism as an essential part of the college experience? Join us for a conversation with seasoned student leaders and listen to stories of challenges and success. By amplifying these voices, let’s examine the notion of a civic-minded campus as it relates to the development of student government activists.


Hannah Jackson, AS President, University of Nevada, Reno

Collin Sullivan, SGA Senator, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Marcos Montes, ASI VP for External Affairs & Advancement, California State University, Los Angeles

Moderated by:

Marcus A. Rodriguez, ASI Dir. Government Affairs & Leadership Programs, California State University, Los Angeles, NASPA Public Policy Division – Region 6 Representative

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