Graduate Students Brave Winter Storm to Lobby on Capitol Hill

Friday, April 6, 2018

Despite the nor’easter that hit Washington, D.C. and closed down much of the city, 12 graduate and professional students traveled to Capitol Hill on March 21 for Cornell Advocacy Day.

Morgan Carter (PhD), Miquela Hanselman (MPH), Cassandra (Casey) Cromer (DVM), Rachel Sandman (PhD), Elgin Ford, CIPA, Manisha Munasinghe (PhD), Stephi-Anne Duliepre (DVM), Kwonsun Jung (Law) Photo credit: Kristen Ligouri Adams

Students met with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss science policy, graduate federal student aid, and research funding. By all accounts the students’ messages were well-received on Capitol Hill.

“I came into this experience hoping for the opportunity to interact with various senators and congressman, and I was not let down,” said Miquela Hanselman, MPH candidate. “As a person who doesn’t have much experience in policy, I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive and open to listening the staff and representatives were. It was exciting to be able to actually talk with my representatives and make connections about issues that impact graduate students every day.”

Students visited seven congressional offices from five states, and each student visited representatives of his or her home state.

“It was an amazing opportunity getting to come down to Washington, D.C. to advocate not only on behalf of federal student aid but also increased federal support for basic science research,” said Manisha Munasinghe, Ph.D. candidate in computational biology. “It may seem intimidating coming down to the Hill to speak to your representatives, but it’s actually a very enlightening and entertaining experience.”

Four students who participated in Advocacy Day were also selected to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering Workshop March 18-20 in Washington. The students, Morgan Carter, Lory Henderson, Yolanda Lin, and Manisha Munasinghe, learned more about the structure and organization of Congress, federal budget and appropriations processes, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement.

Casey Cromer (DVM), Elgin Ford (CIPA), Miquela Hanselman (MPH), Rep. John Faso (NY), Kwonsun Jung (Law), Stephi-Anne Duliepre (DVM) Photo credit: Kristen Ligouri Adams

To prepare for the government visits, the students met with Terrance (Terry) Horner, BS ’92 and PhD ’98 and president of the Cornell Club of Washington. He is also the ‎Assistant Director for the ‎U.S. Government Accountability Office. 

“Terry was extremely generous with his time and insights,” said Sara Xayarath Hernandez, associate dean for inclusion and student engagement in Cornell’s Graduate School. “Having the opportunity to connect with alumni like Terry working in D.C. made for an even more meaningful experience.”

Many staff and members of Congress encouraged the students to continue their advocacy.