The Georgetown University Student Association executive charged its first federal relations team to advocate for student affairs and engage students on local and federal government initiatives.
The March addition to GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Vice President Chris Fisk’s (COL ’17) executive, the office is directed by former Executive Officer of the GUSA Senate Kotryna Jukneviciute (COL ’18), and is divided into local advocacy, national advocacy and programming departments.
Within the federal relations team, the National Advocacy team, Local Advocacy team and Programming teams, alongside National & Local Liaison Trey Tadepalli and Secretary of Civil Rights Advocacy Ibilola Owoyele, report directly to Jukneviciute. Jukneviciute meets routinely with Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Chris Murphy.
The National Advocacy team, Local Advocacy team and Programming teams each have secretaries working in more focused areas.
According to Murphy, the team will work with the university’s Office of Federal Relations to advance campus dialogue on national issues such as federal student aid, D.C. statehood and mental health.
According to Jukneviciute, the team has already begun three initiatives: a student leadership alliance to encourage cooperation between student government at colleges around the country, a mentorship program with D.C. public school students and a partnership with D.C. Central Kitchens to provide storage space on campus for its summer operations.
Jukneviciute said the SLA will develop a website that brings student governments together.
“The Student Leadership Alliance is basically a website bringing different institutions together across the country in a centralized location for advocacy purposes, so basically a resource for us to reach out to different student body presidents from different student governments,” Jukneviciute said.
Khan said she and Fisk saw the need for a new GUSA executive office after she saw common issues arise at college campuses around the country.
“The very first time Chris and I sat down, this was a conversation that we had,” Khan said. “At the time, a lot of it pertained to the conversations we saw were happening about race and inclusion on campuses and we realized there are a lot of issues that spur on college campuses, but then can become a more widespread national conversation.”
Khan said Georgetown is in a unique situation to lead national advocacy.
“Since we are at Georgetown, in D.C., we have access to the actual federal government, which puts us in a unique position,” Khan said. “We realized that since there is that interest at Georgetown, we have a responsibility to be able to connect students and empower them to be able to do that.”
Murphy said he looks forward to working with the federal relations team on various student-related issues.
“We have really enjoyed the partnership our office has formed with Kotryna Jukneviciute and the other students on the GUSA Federal Relations [Team],” Murphy wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“They bring a wonderful energy, ambition and commitment to their work.”
Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said he plans on meeting with team members to discuss issues the administration should support.
“We have already had terrific conversations about some of the issues coming up down the road in Congress impacting students,” Fleming wrote in an email to The Hoya. “In fact, last evening I met with the GUSA federal relations team and we discussed a number of ideas where I am sure we will work together, most especially in areas of student aid funding and the Higher Education Act Reauthorization.”
GUSA Secretary of Institutional Outreach Zachary Schroepfer (SFS ’19), who oversees the SLA project, said he hopes to facilitate communication among student activists around the country.
“We figured that as students that are in D.C. we have a certain benefit because we are so close to Capitol Hill that we don’t want to just keep for ourselves,” Schroepfer said. “We want to share with other universities.”
Schroepfer said the SLA will also analyze congressional bills that might impact students and aggregate student advocacy at the federal level to advocate for or against policy proposals.
“For example, if there is a piece of legislation on the Hill on mental health that is good for students then we would have a petition for or against it depending on how it affects college students and then from there we would get student body presidents of different universities to sign on to these petitions,” Schroepfer said. “That way when we go up to different congresspeople and staffers we can say it’s not just Georgetown students who care about this issue.”
According to GUSA Secretary of Local Educational Affairs Kamar Mack (COL ’19), his team focuses on building relationships between Georgetown and D.C. public school students.
“My role is twofold – first, giving Georgetown students more avenues to improve DC education and second, advocating to DC city leaders on behalf of schools needing the most help. My passion for education motivates me because improving our schools will address countless other social issues while opening doors of opportunity,” Mack wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Mack said he is also developing a mentorship program that will match Georgetown students with three Anacostia elementary school students. Students will guide their mentees through their college career.
“The idea is to build strong, long-term relationships with their mentees, and the group can grow together,” Mack wrote. “This is extremely important for the Anacostia students because academic and moral development must begin early in order to succeed in secondary and higher education.”
GUSA Secretary of D.C. Statehood Cheryl Liu (SFS ’19) will push for District statehood through partnerships with local government (full disclosure: Liu is a staff writer for The Hoya).
“D.C. statehood should be seen as a bipartisan issue,” Jukneviciute said. “You have thousands and thousands of people who don’t have a voice, who are living in the city and whose vote doesn’t really matter too much, who don’t have representation. I think ultimately that’s a civil rights issue.”
Jukneviciute said she and Secretary of D.C. Programming Sabrina Romulo (SFS ’19) are working to secure storage space on campus for D.C. Central Kitchens’ summer programs for low-income students.
“What we want to do is make Georgetown’s freezer space available to them in the summer because they are very low on freezer space,” Jukneviciute said. “With this, D.C. Central Kitchens would be able to provide more meals during the summer when the students who rely on school lunches and go to school for school lunches will have food during the summer so they won’t be starving when not in class.”
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