Focused on professionals who are new to AACRAO and/or higher education, "Building the Blueprint" addresses members' first impressions, expectations, hopes, and misconceptions as they navigate the field of higher education and explore the association.
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by Fahduma Majid, Communications Coordinator, AACRAO
Since joining the AACRAO staff last November, every experience is a new one. After working with the communications team on marketing "Hill Day," our annual event where our members visit Capitol Hill and advocate for higher education legislation, I thought that I had a firm understanding
of what to expect when June 20 rolled around.
Of course, I knew nothing. In the morning of Hill Day, 52 of our AACRAO Advocates gathered from all over the United States. The morning was standard enough--meeting at a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, and traveling to the Senate to commence some workshops
geared towards preparing our members for their Congressional meetings.
I’ve been to both the SEM Conference and Annual Meeting, but this was the first AACRAO event where I felt like I truly got to converse with the members on a personal level. The advocates were all members of our committees and leadership
(as required to apply to Hill Day), but these were new fresh faces that I was seeing, all eager to make connections with their peers. It didn’t seem like an exclusive club; these were young, diverse members of AACRAO, eager to take advantage
of the opportunities we offered for professional development. The advocates were paired off according to their home state, with the groups being as large as four people and as small as two. They then commenced their meetings with their
state Representatives and Senators, the first ones starting off awkwardly, but all of the groups gained confidence throughout the afternoon. It was refreshing for our members to advocate for issues dear to them and their students--from student
identity to the Dream Act.
It was also a reminder that despite how distant Capitol Hill seems to many of us, these government officials are here to hear your concerns. Despite the nervousness of our members in the beginning, they began to understand that through the course
of their meetings there was no need for detailed bill names or terminology. Half of these legislative staffers that we were meeting with hadn’t even heard of “reverse transfer”--in the end, it was about having a genuine conversation
with a person who technically works for you, and to have your interests represented to America’s government. Though AACRAO gave our advocates talking points, I found that the most productive conversations involved issues that our
members were passionate about. An example is our advocate Ewa Nowicki (Chairwoman of AACRAO’s Women’s Caucus) discussing student identity with Representative Ayanna Pressley’s office, and its impact on records, registration
and more. Rep. Pressley’s office took our cards, and asked the delegation to stay in touch for help drafting future legislation.
If you’re considering doing Hill Day next year, please do. Here are the main takeaways for you:
- Don’t be afraid of not being knowledgeable enough to converse with the staffers. A lot of them have never even heard of the content beforehand.
- Get ready to make new friends, especially considering the people in your group are all from the same state.
- We give you talking points, but please also engage your Congressman/woman in any other relevant higher education topics.
- Spread the word. Hill Day is free for our members, and we cover hotel costs. Why not use the opportunity to meet your Congress people and push forth agendas to better your institution and the state of all higher education?