Advocating for Change

Three CIP members, Heather Schieman (Education Abroad Advisor), Jane Fancher (Immigration Coordinator),  and Faiz Bader ‘18 (Electrical Engineering) joined over 300 people for the NAFSA Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.. This day is an annual gathering, sponsored by NAFSA: Association for International Educators, for staff, faculty and students to directly advocate for support from politicians throughout the country. These three were among a group of 18 people from Ohio who met with staffers from Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman’s offices, as well as the District Representatives from both Dayton and Cincinnati.

The goal of Advocacy Day was to increase awareness of the impact both international students and international education experiences bring to colleges and universities. Groups were divided by state, and tasked with preparing information relevant to the personal impact they have experienced in relation to international education.

The group spent all day Monday being trained on how to encourage support from staffers, what is appropriate to say and where to actively respond with stories and personal insights. They spent time role playing and practicing in preparation for the quick 30 minute window they were given with each Senator and State Representative’s office. Jane Fancher shared, “we were encouraged to share stories of how we have seen (recent Executive Orders) impact students. They wanted examples of this (impact) in the real world.”

As Tuesday came, the group shifted from learning to action. The day was spent in meetings throughout Capitol Hill, encouraging staffers to champion important causes connected to international education currently needing support from Congress. They gave each staffer a packet with data, info graphics and figures of contributions throughout the country from international students. They also shared statistics about the numbers of students who study abroad, and how necessary the experience is to prepare students for the global society in which we live.

Heather shared some insights on her desire to attend the day. “This was an opportunity to personally and professionally represent (NAFSA) and make a difference in a current national climate that doesn’t fully lend itself to supporting international education.” The Advocacy Day traditionally pulls around 40 people each year, but the group saw a large increase in attendance this time, given the current political atmosphere.  Jane shared, “in the position I’m in, I’m directly advising students impacted by the recent Executive Order, and I’ve seen the chilling effects it’s had on the morale of our students."

UD was among the few universities who sent students with their group of representatives, and more specifically, who sent an international student. Faiz Bader is a third year student from Libya, one of the six countries affected by the Executive Order, and attended to share some of his own experiences as he navigates college in the U.S.

International students make up only 5% of overall U.S. college enrollments, but they make significant contributions to our communities. UD is ranked 6th in the state, and 1st in Dayton, in economic impact and jobs created from international students attending colleges and universities here.

As the day wrapped up, the large group came back together and shared stories about the experiences of the day. “The staff really focused on this experience being the beginning of an on-going connection with our government officials”, Jane shared. “NAFSA hopes we continue to stay in contact with the staffers we met with; emailing, calling and writing to them consistently to advocate for the change we hope to see.”

To learn more about the activity from that day, follow #NAFSAAD.

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