Marla D. Johnson
University of Illinois at Springfield
I think there is a notion that in order to participate in Advocacy Day, you have to be into politics. Despite popular belief, any member can (and should) take advantage of this opportunity. All you have to do is show up and know that you are the expert in your profession; the rest will come naturally.
As a first-timer with IACAC, I had a great experience in Springfield for Advocacy Day. The committee co-chairs did an exceptional job preparing us for our meetings with our respective elected officials. We started off Advocacy Day with training. We were presented with a list of proposed legislation to focus on while in our meetings, as well as data to support IACAC’s stances on each of them. As we were wrapping up and preparing to head to the capital, I never felt like I was unprepared or alone. The co-chairs made sure you were supported and ready to advocate on behalf of our students across the state of Illinois.
I am not a novice when it comes to advocacy, so I was excited about our meeting. Honestly, I could not have asked for a better meeting with my representative. We had a great conversation sharing our stances on legislation. She also wanted to know about our personal experiences as higher education professionals. In sharing some of our experiences, we were able to put into perspective why the legislation we were advocating for is so important. By the end of the meeting, I felt accomplished and was inspired to continue to enlighten others on educational policies.
In essence, I would encourage everyone to participate in Advocacy Day, at least once. It’s a great opportunity to talk to the people who vote on legislation that affects our students and institutions. Now I know some people will feel like they don’t have what it takes to do advocacy, or you may feel intimidated, but don’t. You have what it takes! Remember, elected officials were once just a constituent too. I hope that by sharing my experience, you will be encouraged to attend Advocacy Day next year and serve on the Government Relations Committee. Trust me, you won’t regret it!