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Taking Student Support to the Next Level

Suzanne Richardt is dedicated to supporting students in her role as an Assistant Director in the International Student and Scholar Services Office in the Center for International Programs. Recently, she had the opportunity to take her support to the next level by participating in the annual NAFSA Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. This day is a gathering, sponsored by NAFSA: Association for International Educators, for staff, faculty and students to directly advocate for support from politicians throughout the country.

On Monday and Tuesday, March 18 and 19, Suzanne joined over 300 people from across the country to participate in advocating for international education. Designed to increase awareness of the impact both international students and international education experiences bring to colleges and universities, teams are divided by state, and tasked with preparing information relevant to the personal impact they have experienced in relation to international education. Suzanne was the only representative from the University of Dayton, but was joined by 6 others from universities throughout Ohio.

“I was motivated to participate because since rejoining UD in 2011, I’ve gotten to know so many students, and hear their stories. I felt this responsibility to advocate for them in larger ways, beyond just here at UD.” Suzanne, who is also a 2006 alum, knew this experience would help her build additional skills in understanding how to support international students, and to advocate for the overall impact of international education. “I tend to be someone who is supporting behind the scenes, but this showed me how much value there is in publicly gathering to advocate for the same cause.”

The two days were a filled with a full schedule of education, trainings, role playing and actual meetings with lawmakers from each state, and region. Ultimately the group of advocates hoped to raise awareness and ask for participation in two areas. First, in supporting international students here in the U.S., by participating in a Twitter campaign on April 3, and encouragement to make a floor statement on April 11, exercising their oversight on regulatory acts that support international students. Lawmakers could show support for international students by using the hashtag #WelcometoSucceed. Ohio Senator Rob Portman participated, tweeting his support for international students, who comprise over 37,000 students in colleges and universities here in Ohio.

The second goal was to ask for support to reintroduce the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, which would designate federal funding to universities for education abroad scholarships. Only 2% of students attending higher education in the U.S. eventually study abroad, and often to the same regions of the world. This act would help broaden the population of students going abroad, as well as diversify the geographic locations and reduce barriers that exist for students.

“The NAFSA organizers reminded us [our advocacy] is a marathon, not a sprint. There is a larger purpose of developing relationships with your elected officials, and continuing to engage with your local representatives for their support and resources.” This day was a continued effort to move in that direction.

And what was one of the best parts of the experience for Suzanne? Meeting fellow Flyers on Capitol Hill. Sam Hattrup '14 (B.A. Political Science) is Legislative Correspondent at the Office of Senator Rob Portman in D.C. As soon as Suzanne shared she was from the University of Dayton, he exclaimed “Go Flyers”. This connection was a direct example of the ways fellow Flyers can have impact in their careers after UD. Suzanne reflected, “it was great to be well received, and to know we were being heard in significant places.”

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

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