Conveying the importance of Iowa State to the state of Iowa.
This is one of the main goals for ISU Legislative Ambassadors – a student organization under the umbrella of Student Government that focuses on policy at a statewide level.
What it boils down to, however, at least for co-directors Katie Holmes and Jensyn Perrin is the prospect of showcasing to students the power and role they have in politics.
“It’s really an opportunity to use your voice as a student to represent the rest of your student body on such a different level than any other position,” Perrin said.
As an ambassador, students lobby legislators at the Iowa State Capitol to push for issues relevant to students – such as higher education funding.
“I love being involved,” Holmes said. “And being able to know what is going on in the university and also having the ability to actually make a change in the university — is really, really cool.”
Ambassadors also look outside of the Iowa State campus and community in its lobbying efforts, and serve as voices for the other regent universities.
Last year, the student organization even drafted their own legislation regarding medical amnesty that passed unanimously through the Senate, but did not make it to the House floor within that legislative cycle.
“We’re more of a state-wide, state-level group,” Perrin said.
Former ISU Legislative Ambassador Director Isaiah Baker said being a part of the organization was an opportunity for him to be a part of the political process in a more personal way.
“It felt like legislators took more of an interest when it came from students advocating on the behalf of ourselves, rather than it being done through some indirect means like emails or phone calls or the university administration pushing for something,” Baker said.
But it was also impersonal, he said, because legislators often have their own agendas or preconceived notions of a bill or had other concerns with unrelated issues.
“That’s the nature of the Capitol trips, you pull legislators out into the rotunda and you talk to them face-to-face,” Baker said. “It felt like we made an impact, even if it may have not directly translated to the accomplishment of our goals.”
And that groundwork was important to Baker.
“It’s a slow process,” he said, more similar to a marathon, not a sprint.
But for Baker and Holmes, both ambassadors last year, being in the position was more than lobbying for legislation, but also creating new experiences and having fun.
Both Baker and Holmes remembered an instance at the Capitol last year where the ambassadors were able to tour the roof of the building.
In the crowded parking lot outside the Capitol, the ambassadors were able to spot their mini-van which was about a half a mile away.
“Isaiah was like, ‘Oh, I can see the mini-van from here. I wonder if I can lock it.’ Because apparently if you put it under your chin it makes the signal stronger. He did it… and you could hear it honk to lock,” Holmes said. “That was really fun.”
Currently, Holmes and Perrin are accepting applications for ambassadors and are hoping for an array of majors, ages and perspectives. Applications are due on Sunday, Sept. 24.
“We will lead our ambassadors in talking to legislators and getting their opinions on certain things, whether it's funding or medical amnesty – and talking with them about what they would like to see from Iowa State,” Holmes said. “It’s so impactful and we need legislators to realize that so we can get adequate funding for the resources that our students need to be successful.”