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News at Mason

Rain doesn’t dampen enthusiasm on Mason Lobbies Day

February 10, 2020   /   by Buzz McClain

The annual pilgrimage to Richmond, Virginia, from George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus began just after dawn and during a flash flood warning on blustery Feb. 6. But that didn’t stop 40 Mason students—most of them undergraduates—from making the bus ride to the state capital for a day of advocating for higher education issues during Mason Lobbies Day.

The students divided into small teams and spent much of the morning meeting with members of the General Assembly and their staffs, presenting information about pertinent bills working their ways through the statehouse.

Most of the students were participating for the first time and had little idea what to expect.

“This is absolutely democracy in action,” said Mason interim president Anne Holton during her welcoming remarks. “You will see a beautiful exercise in democracy.”

Majority Leader Charniele Herring, BA Economics ’93, provided tips for successful advocating to the rookie lobbyists: “Make eye contact, know something about the member, and be brief,” she offered.

State Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-29th), who earned his BA and MPA from Mason, told the students not to “assume your legislator knows what you know. They may be hearing this for the first time.”

He charged the students with a future of public advocacy, adding, “Even if this is the first time you are reaching out to a legislator, it will not be your last. That is not going to change throughout your life.”

After welcoming remarks by Holton, Herring, McPike and fellow Mason alumna  and  legislative and policy director Gerica Goodman, BS Psychology ’12 and MPA ’15, Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41st) joined the students, wearing a Mason green and gold scarf, for a group photo.

Later in the morning the students were ushered into the upper galleries of the House and Senate to watch legislators vote on bills. In the Senate, Lt. Gov. and President pro tempore Justin Fairfax gave the floor to McPike, jokingly introducing him as “the senator from George Mason University.” McPike rose with the microphone and acknowledged the students in the gallery, remarking on Mason’s current successes in research and scholarship.

The gesture was a memorable one, students said.

“The standout moments for me were having the Mason delegation recognized on the Senate floor and getting to meet Del. Michael Webert (R-18th),” said public administration senior Dawson Weinhold.