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Caucus proves to be uplifting

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | APRIL 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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DES MOINES — Even a broken-down bus — fixed in an hour — did not kill UI students’ positivity as they traveled to Des Moines on Wednesday.

More than 100 undergraduate and graduate students went to the State Capitol for the fourth-annual Hawkeye Caucus Day, during which they spoke with legislators to voice their opinions on educational issues.

The event also included a college fair with representatives from 27 college departments.

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Numerous pharmacy and dentistry students, clad in lab coats, arrived to express gratitude for increased legislative funding for their graduate programs, such as money provided for planning a new pharmacy building.

Earlier this year, Gov. Terry Branstad set aside $2 million in his budget recommendation for use in planning for the pharmacy project.

Second-year pharmacy student Hilary McCants said it is a “top-notch program in a really crappy building.”

McCants spoke to Rep. Sally Stutsman, D-Riverside, who shared the students’ zeal.

“I think it’s just fantastic on a number of levels,” Stutsman said. “It’s great to see them here at the Capitol and learning about the education process and how important it is to communicate with legislators and advocate and just say thank you for what they do.”

Hawkeye Caucus President Joelle Brown said cynicism about the political process did not apply on Wednesday.

“Today was less about politics and more about showing our government that their investment is paying off,” she said. “It’s hard not be happy and not have a good time when you’re talking about something like the University of Iowa.”

The tuition freeze was a common topic students discussed with legislators. Caucus participants hope the Legislature can pass a third university appropriations increase next year.

“It helps those students whose tuition will be frozen and then the other students who rely on state appropriations to make their programs more affordable,” said Ben Gillig, the presient of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students. “What we’d like to communicate with legislators and with the governor’s offices just what it is that the money the state provides goes to do and the extraordinary things that students, faculty and staff are doing on the campuses. The best way to communicate that is exactly what is going on here.”

Jackson Walsh and Emily Moore were eager to promote the University of Iowa to legislators, a sentiment shared by many undergraduate participants.

“I guess we’re trying to get them on our side and to see what a great university we have,” Moore said. “We’re trying to use that uplifting feeling we have about the school to try and motivate them too.”

Walsh is confident the caucus will benefit UI.

“I think we all know that we can make a difference,” he said.


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