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White house in DC for GPSA event

GPSA members advocate for Graduate and Professional Students in DC

By Malena Grosz

GPSA Assistant Director for Government Affairs

MFA candidate in Theatre (Arts Entrepreneurship & Management)

In March, I joined six other members of the ASU Graduate and Professional Student Association External Affairs committee to attend the Spring Advocacy Summit and Legislative Action Days in Washington, DC, hosted by the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS). I wanted to learn about the congressional process and how to advocate for issues I care about, particularly as it relates to my work in nightlife and event production. It was helpful to gain knowledge and practice as a student so that I can advocate with confidence in my future work.  

Student representatives joined NAGPS members across the nation to learn about and discuss issues that affect graduate and professional students, such as proposed revisions to Title IX, mental health and the Higher Education Act Reauthorization. The first two days were the Spring Advocacy Summit, a conference for students to gain more in-depth knowledge about specific issues and learn best practices for advocating to our legislators. Then we participated in the Legislative Action Days, where NAGPS students from across the country spent two days putting what we learned over the weekend to use in meetings with staff of our state representatives on behalf of graduate and professional student in our respective states.

We met and collaborated with our fellow Arizona NAGPS members from Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona. We teamed up to meet with the office of almost every Arizona Congressperson and Senator and spent a few weeks preparing for the trip — researching and sending meeting requests, coordinating with the other universities and holding training and strategy meetings. The trip was a successful and rewarding experience allowing each student to apply what they learned during the Summit and get first-hand advocacy experience.

I recently joined the GPSA External Affairs committee so that I could gain a better understanding of advocacy and policy-making. I came into this process with little prior experience, but found the information accessible and useful, and was able to go into our meetings on Capitol Hill feeling confident. One of the biggest takeaways from the Summit weekend for me was the importance of researching each representative before our conversation to learn which committees they serve on and where they stand on specific issues. This helped us cater our approach in each office, finding ways to bridge understanding regardless of political viewpoint or party line. It was also important to remember that we were not advocating for ourselves as individuals, but for graduate students as a whole. This allowed us to focus our energy toward building relationships and finding common ground with each congressional office.

Our intention as the GPSA External Affairs committee is to empower students through advocacy and to build stronger alliances with our state and federal representatives, maintaining a consistent dialogue about issues that affect graduate and professional students. The NAGPS Advocacy Summit and Legislative Action Days is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about Congress, practice advocacy first-hand and build relationships with politicians and other students. However, there are many different ways to advocate for issues you care about and issues that affect students year-round. It is our duty as citizens to communicate with policymakers to make sure our voices are heard. We can make an impact with individual action but we can have an even bigger impact when we come together to organize, learn and build strategies to send out waves.

Want to learn how you can help advocate for yourself and grad students in Arizona and across the country? You don’t have to travel to Washington, DC, to get started! You can reach out to anyone on the GPSA External Affairs team to learn how to get involved.