It”s not too often students get the chance to discuss important matters directly with state lawmakers – yet last week, 27 University of Idaho students traveled to Boise for the Legislative Luncheon to do just that.
The Legislative Ambassador program”s main event was the Legislative Luncheon on Wednesday, in which students met with legislators and lobbied for ASUI interests.
ASUI Director of Policy Nick Wren said he was involved with planning the Legislative Ambassador program.
“They decided to mix it up a little bit this year with a sit-down lunch to give students more one-on-one time with legislators,” Wren said.
In years past, Wren said the event has consisted of students walking around to displays set up by deans of the different colleges with a legislator. The luncheon creates more of a personable environment and makes it easier for students to connect with legislators, Wren said.
He added that UI representatives have always attended Higher Education Week for the Joint Appropriations Committee presentation to pitch why the committee should fund UI.
“We had some feedback that legislators appreciated the UI adding the student component, because that”s who they really wanted to talk to,” Wren said.
Wren said students applied for the program last semester and he was in charge of selecting which students went on the trip.
“We really put an emphasis on students who were from the state of Idaho because we wanted to match them with a legislator from their district,” Wren said. “So the people who they were talking to are the people, in theory, that they voted for.”
Wren said they wanted to lobby for three main points during the luncheon: medical amnesty, scholarship funding and the Complete College Idaho program.
“We wanted to ask for more money for Complete College Idaho to encourage students to attend colleges in the state of Idaho,” Wren said. “It would also add more programs to the Career Center and expand their job database.”
ASUI Sen. Mckenzie MacDonald participated in the luncheon and said she attended three training sessions in preparation. She said training sessions covered topics such as policy points students were supposed to address, as well as dress code.
MacDonald said her favorite part of the experience was connecting with the state legislators.
“I was really excited for the opportunity to talk with those who represent me, my family and my district,” MacDonald said.
She said about 50 legislators showed up to the luncheon and she spoke to representatives from Idaho”s 1st and 2nd Districts.
“I felt a little intimidated at first, but once I got to talking to them they were really personable and seemed like they were genuinely excited to be talking to UI students,” MacDonald said. ASUI Pro Tempore Rachael Miller also went on the trip and had the chance to speak to the legislators from her district.
“It was great to get to know my local senator and talk about things important to the university and to ASUI,” Miller said. “It was interesting for me to talk to a lawmaker who represents my home and will affect university policy.”
Besides the luncheon, Wren said the program included an optional service project, a tour of the Capitol and an alumni event called the Silver and Gold Banquet.
Wren said this program is a unique and rewarding experience for students who participate.
“A lot of people don”t get the chance to tell their state government what really matters to them on such a one-on-one level,” Wren said. “It”s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”