UI students prep for caucus

BY MICHELLE NGO | MARCH 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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Meeting powerful politicians for the first time may be daunting for most students, which is why the Hawkeye Caucus organizes training sessions before its largest event each year.

On April 2, more than 100 University of Iowa undergraduate and graduate students will travel to the State Capitol as part of the fourth-annual Hawkeye Caucus Day.

Students will not only meet state legislators face-to-face, they will also have the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues of education and student life in Iowa City. In addition, 27 college departments will present 50 different displays in the Capitol’s rotunda for students to view.

Joelle Brown, the president of the Hawkeye Caucus, and her team organized a training session for Tuesday evening to help students better prepare for the event.

One of the big topics the participants plan to advocate for on Hawkeye Caucus Day is the university’s tuition freeze, which keeps tuition at the same-rate for in-state students throughout their undergraduate years.

Students are encouraged to prepare and practice a brief “story of self” that they will share with legislators at the event. The story of self includes why students chose to attend the university and how their life is now at the UI.

“I know I was freaked out and nervous my first time around,” said UI sophomore John Sheeley. “… We try to make sure everyone’s story of self is clear so students feel more comfortable and know how to control the conversation.”

The “story of self” is used as a strategy to help advocate for the in-state tuition freeze.

During the session, students met with their advocacy groups and had former attendees help provide the group with feedback. A lot of thought goes into pairing students in particular groups with specific legislators, Brown said.

“It’s really important for in-state students to be talking to the legislator who represents their district,” Brown said.

This will be the first Hawkeye Caucus Day for UI junior Mackenzie Leonard, who said she is especially interested in hearing about whether the in-state tuition freeze will continue after this academic year.

“My whole family moved to Dewitt, Iowa, this last Thanksgiving from Illinois,” Leonard said. “Since I have recently become an Iowa resident, the topic of the tuition freeze is really important, and I’m excited to hear from state legislators about the issue.”

Students are not the only ones anticipating the big event next week. Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said Hawkeye Caucus Day is one of his favorite days of the year.

“I think the students coming here help open the doors for them to have honest conversation,” he said. “It works better when they’re talking to legislators face-to-face and letting them know the value of a regent school’s education, because there are a lot of people in the House who don’t believe the University of Iowa provides a quality of education.”

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