Legislators are busy people, especially when the session starts up in February. That’s why private colleges are eager to host state lawmakers on visits throughout the year, for students and staff to have more in-depth conversation with legislators.
Take State Sen. Nick Frentz, who came to Bethany Lutheran College in October. Sen. Frentz represents Mankato and Bethany Lutheran sits square in his district.
“Meetings like this open doors,” said Lance Schwartz, Bethany Lutheran’s chief communications officer. “It was invaluable to host a legislator on campus and a good reminder for staff and students to be involved in the legislative process.”
The visit included a tour and stopping by different classrooms. “The senator is also an attorney, so naturally, it was a highlight to show him the mock trial and legal studies department,” Schwartz said. “He was very interested in coming back to Bethany to assist with mock trial events.”
Each year many legislators learn more about students who go to private nonprofit colleges and connect with constituents through campus visits. At a time when many legislators have only recently been elected, these kinds of visits are more important than ever.
A desire to connect legislators and students were at the heart of St. Catherine University’s invitations last semester. “We decided to invite legislators to campus to engage in conversations and share research from our students,” said D’Ann Urbaniak Lesch, assistant vice president for engaged learning. Two legislators were able to take part — State Sen. Mary Kunesh and State Rep. Dave Pinto visited in early December.
“I appreciated the time Senator Kunesh took to learn more about research students are doing through the Center for Community Work and Learning,” said Melody Her, a member of the St. Kate’s student senate. “The Senator also spent time with our students discussing the State Grant and needs on campus.”
Insights about the political process is one thing legislators were able to share, noted Josibeth Aguilera, the St. Kate’s Political Science Club president and civic engagement fellow.
“Rep. Pinto is a great educator, he was upfront and provided strong advice on how students can navigate being heard this legislative session when connecting with legislators,” Aguilera said.
As for what is next for St. Kate’s students as the legislative session looms near, “Our legislator’s visiting campus has kickstarted the drive in our students to invite more legislators to campus,” Her said. She noted it has also given them more momentum for organizing students to come to the Capitol and speak up for the State Grant program.
By Olivia Brammer