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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion Students Lobby Lawmakers, Meet Gov. McAuliffe

A large contingent of Old Dominion University student leaders recently visited Richmond during the General Assembly session to advocate for the University with Hampton Roads lawmakers. The students also met with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Education Anne Holton during the trip.

The students were greeted in the morning by Secretary Holton in the General Assembly building and were introduced to legislators while attending House of Delegates and Senate sessions. They ended the day with a visit to the Patrick Henry Building, where they met and posed for photos with Gov. McAuliffe.

During the visit, students spoke to lawmakers about ODU's mission as a major metropolitan research university with a mandate to understand and respond to critical public policy imperatives, among the most important of which is access to top-quality and affordable higher education.

The trip was sponsored through the Student Government Association (SGA) and is a unique opportunity for students to get with the University and Commonwealth's budgetary process, said SGA Pres. Christopher Ndiritu.

"This is my third year attending the annual General Assembly (GA) Day with Old Dominion University and each year it continues to be very memorable. Most students recognize that ODU is given operational and capital funds through the Commonwealth, but rarely do they get to see the entire process," Ndiritu said. "This yearly trip also allows students to speak with legislators from Hampton Roads to lobby for ODU's funding. It is very important for us to put a face and name to ODU - it helps legislators when it comes to looking at ODU's budget request.

The group that attended this year included first-generation, international and out of state students.

"We expressed our individual stories, struggles and hurdles we've had to overcome, and how important financial aid is to the University," Ndiritu said. "Some students discussed how their majors would benefit greatly to some of the capital projects we hope to embark on, such as the new chemistry building."

The students also noted that the University community is grateful that Gov. McAuliffe and the General Assembly recognized ODU's significant contributions by investing substantial resources in the University over the past several years.

In his proposed budget, Gov. McAuliffe included increases of $7.4 million in operating support and $8.6 million in financial aid over the biennium. In addition, he included $8.1 million for a joint online degree venture with George Mason and $900,000 each to Old Dominion and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science for a joint center to study sea level rise and recurrent flooding.

Rachael Edmonds, SGA director of legislative affairs and diversity, said she enjoyed seeing delegates in session, participating in debates over policies that may impact her.

"I learned about how our representatives make decisions and how they are presented with those decisions. I also found it especially interesting to sit in on the House of Delegates and see them vote on bills and see Roberts Rules of order work in the real world," she said. "I really enjoyed being a part of planning this year's trip and watching students see our government in action."