Clark University students learn lobbying how-to’s during Advocacy Day conference in Washington

From left, Clark University students Danielle Strandson, Radhika Sharma, Mariana Lopez-Davila, and Oscar Zapata From left, Clark University students Danielle Strandson, Radhika Sharma, Eliana Hadjiandreou, Mariana Lopez-Davila, and Oscar Zapata in Washington, D.C.

A group of Clark University students are back on campus after participating in Advocacy Day, a conference held by the Association of International Educators in Washington, D.C., from March 17-19.

Associate Director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs Patricia Doherty and Associate Director of Study Abroad Programs Connie Whitehead Hanks, who accompanied the student group, wrote: “Advocacy Day gave us, as NAFSA members, the opportunity to share with our students the importance of understanding and participating first-hand in influencing our government policies as they relate to immigration and study abroad. They will continue to raise their voices in support of international education, and will incorporate their newly found knowledge and advocacy skills to find success in both their academic and professional careers.”

The Clark students were selected through a competitive application process. They also helped secure funding for their trip. Participants include: Danielle Strandson ’14, Radhika Sharma ’16, Eliana Hadjiandreou ’16, Oscar Zapata ’14, and Clark graduate student Mariana Lopez-Davila.

During the trip, the students learned how to lobby effectively on Capitol Hill. They met with legislative staff and practiced “pitching” their own stories and explaining why a given bill would be important to pass through Congress.

Strandson, a senior from Connecticut who is double-majoring in International Development and Studio Art, had participated in Clark’s study abroad program in South Africa. In Washington, she advocated for the Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which provides opportunities for students to have a potentially life-changing semester abroad.

After Strandson shared her story in front of the staff of Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), she knew she had crafted a powerful pitch. “I saw their eyes light up. I could tell that they now are thinking about study abroad as a powerful tool to create knowledgeable future government employees that are more informed about culture and thus can better represent the U.S. abroad.” Strandson said she plans a career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

“It's really cool to know that I made a change, even if it was very small. Sometimes it takes another person's story to frame an initiative differently.”

Before leaving Clark’s campus, the students met with Clark University VP of Government and Community Affairs Jack Foley, who shared his insights on political relations in general and on advocacy regarding the needs and experiences of immigrants in Worcester. “We discussed Clark’s interactions with the office of Congressman Jim McGovern here and in D.C., as well as how international students going to school in Worcester are impacted by governmental policy issues, especially international students from our neighborhood and who now are attending Clark,” Foley said.

Funding for the group’s trip came from the Clark University Student Council, the Dean of the College, the Political Science department, the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Intercultural Affairs, and the Association of International Educators.

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.