Gusties Visit State Capitol for Advocacy, Networking

Senior Emily Severson reflects on the annual Gustavus Day at the Capitol with the Minnesota Private College Council.
Posted on March 24th, 2017 by

Gustavus students met with Senator Nick Frentz during the visit to the State Capitol.

Written by Emily Severson ’17

It was hard not to smile as I stood on the third floor of the beautifully restored Minnesota State Capitol Building, in a room packed full of current and graduated Gusties of different ages and stages, all sitting and mingling, leaning in closer to hear one another over the bubbling conversations taking place all over the room. Everyone took turns sharing their stories — alumni recounting the types of jobs they had after graduation that led them to where they are today, and current students sharing their dreams and fears for the future. Each and every person at the 2017 Gustavus Adolphus College Day at the Capitol was different, but it was clear that our Gustavus experience united us more deeply than we could ever imagine.

Emily Severson ’17

The morning started out in eager anticipation for the full day that lay ahead. One by one, each student in their blazers, skirts and ties filed onto the bus and we left while the sun was rising to make it to the capitol. Vice President for Marketing and Communication Tim Kennedy bopped around the bus, stopping to connect with various groups of students and ask them about their expectations for the day. Some knew exactly what to expect because they had attended Day at the Capitol before, but the vast majority had never been to the Capitol, let alone to lobby for higher education and have individual meetings with their own legislators. The day became real when we exited off of 35E and I saw the beautiful dome of the Capitol standing strong, welcoming us and putting butterflies in my stomach.

There was no shortage of incredible and inspiring people who were making their lives count to talk to during the day. From meetings with the legislators in charge of our own district like John Considine, Clark Johnson, and Nick Frentz, all the way to a conversation in the Governor’s Reception Room with Linden Zakula ‘05 and Matt Swenson ‘06, who are both currently senior staffers for Governor Dayton. The entire room burst into laughter as Matt told us about his sophomore year when he sprinted down Old Main Hill as Gus the lion, covered in sweat and blood, and was told he had to keep his mascot head on because he was scaring the kids. It was clear that their Gustavus education meant the world to them, and they didn’t just stop when they left the Hill, but they brought their experience with them and continue to draw from their time on campus.

Gustavus President Rebecca Bergman meets with State Senator Mike Goggin ’85.

One of the most unique parts of the day is that each and every student gets a personal meeting scheduled with their senator and representative from their home district. How powerful it must be to these legislators to see students from their own constituencies make the drive all the way from Saint Peter up to the cities and share with them why the Minnesota State Grant Program is indispensable to students in Minnesota. Students shared their own stories, stories from their roommates, or stories of their friends who currently receive the grant, and how their college experience wouldn’t be the same without this help. The Minnesota State Grant is the only type of state aid that a student can take to any Minnesota college they want, private or public. As we sat with our senators and representatives in their offices (or, since they are so busy, caught them in the hall on the way to their committee meeting), we practiced and developed our own advocacy skills with the people who could really make a change.

The end of our afternoon concluded with my favorite part of the day: a networking event with some of the most incredible Gustie alumni who are working in the public sector. Some alumni were familiar faces to me, like Scott Croonquist ‘85 and Leslie Rosedahl ‘03, as they have been involved with Day at the Capitol for years now. But some alumni, like Clara Wicklund ‘16 and Paget Pengelly ‘16, had just graduated and were excited to share their own experience with current students. You could see the excitement in our eyes as we listened to Gusties who had lived in the same dorms and same professors as us, but are now in the real world (and even seem happy to be there!). Tim Kennedy said it best when he shared with our group the reason that he has stuck around Gustavus for so long: it’s the people like the Gusties we got to connect with at Day at the Capitol who really are making their lives count that make Gustavus the incredible place we know it to be.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
jakin@gustavus.edu
507-933-7510

 

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