written by | Clara Kuerschner
This year, Students United had the amazing opportunity to offer a free weekend of learning about advocacy and what it means to be an advocate at their first annual Advocacy Conference. At this conference, students from across the MinnState System got to hear from fellow students, alumni, professors, professionals, and Students United staff.
My favorite part of Advocacy Conference was attending the Keynote session on Saturday with Dr. Keith Edwards and a session about allyship with our Director of Equity and Inclusion, Abeer Syedah. I found these two sessions to be the most beneficial to me for many different reasons.
Dr. Edwards’ session was very insightful into the human mind. He talked about different ways the brain works and how to use those mechanisms to our advantage. He also talked about how if we only talk about the negatives in our lives, we will lead negative lives. If we think of the positives and celebrate little wins, as well as big wins, we can change our entire outlook on life. This idea reminded me of my family always doing “Three best things about your day” while we are all seated at the supper table together. Even if it is difficult to find something meaningful that happened that day, you can always celebrate the little things in life. For example; getting to sleep in, finishing a reading for class, talking to a loved one on the phone, spending time with friends or roommates, etc.
Abeer’s [Students United Director of Equity and Inclusion] session hit me in a very different way. I learned a lot about how to be a respectful ally to different groups of people in my life. A few of the main takeaways that I learned were: treat others the way they want to be treated and do your own research first. Many people know the golden rule, “treat others the way YOU want to be treated”, but not everyone wants to be treated the way you are treated. An amendment was made by Abeer to the golden rule, “treat others the way THEY want to be treated”, which makes me think about how I treat others in a completely different way. I know how I want others to treat me, but I don’t always know how others want to be treated.
Another component of the Advocacy Conference was attending the Advocacy Day the following Monday. Approximately seven students from each MinnState school converged on the State Capital on Monday, February 25th to talk to our representatives about issues relating to higher education. We discussed textbook affordability, funding for state grants, fully-funded tuition freezes, updating qualifications for state grants, getting money for digital infrastructure updates to our ISRS (e-services, D2L, etc.), and much more.
It is so important for all constituents, especially students, to have access to meeting with legislators one-on-one. My motto after this conference is, “We are our own best advocates,” because we are the only ones who truly know what it is like to be a student attending a public college or university in 2019. The worst thing that our legislators can say is “no” and they can’t say “yes” if we don’t ask them first. If we, as students, don’t do the work to advocate for the embetterment of higher education for students, who will?
If you want to advocate for you and your peers, you can tweet, call, and email your legislators. If you don’t know what to say, myself and Students United staff would be happy to share templates and resources for you to use, but personal stories and anecdotes are always the best way to go.