ACC Academic Consortium advocacy trip set for March 12-15

accVirginia Tech will be the host institution for the fourth annual Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Consortium’s Advocacy Trip, scheduled for March 12-15 in Washington, D.C.

Established in 2013, the annual trip provides students from the ACC’s 15 member schools with a forum and a collective voice in support of higher education.

“Our member institutions commitment to academics is unrivaled,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The ACC Academic Consortium is a natural extension of this commitment and we’re proud to be able to support the unique and engaging opportunities it provides to all ACC students.”

The trip brings together undergraduate and graduate students from ACC member institutions to learn about and lobby for the federal support of higher education. The trip allows students to learn more about the federal legislative process, the importance of federal advocacy for higher education, network with students and professionals, and, most importantly, tell their story.

“The ACC has such a comprehensive collection of institutional types in the conference and to bring all of them together to advocate as a united voice on behalf of higher education is something special,” Virginia Tech Assistant Director for Student Government Joe Edens said.

Working with the federal relations office of their institution, students will have an opportunity to meet with legislators, staffers, and key policy advisors to discuss the federal support of higher education.

Virginia Tech public policy graduate student Tara Reel served as a delegate for the 2015 trip and returns this year as one of two student organizers. For Reel, the trip provides an opportunity to tell her story to federal policy and lawmakers.

“For me, advocacy is important because I am a student who would not have received a college education if not for the TRIO programs through the U.S. Department of Education,” Reel said. “I was the first senior from my high school in the TRIO program, Upward Bound. The program serves high school students from low-income families and from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. The ACC Advocacy Trip provides an opportunity for students to share their stories with representatives about the importance of supporting federal student aid programs.”

Building on the individuality of students’ perspectives, advocacy efforts are focused in the support of federal financial aid, federal student loan programs, federal work-study, and the support of research at member institutions. Member institutions’ Federal Relations office and Student Affairs area collaborate to solicit, prepare, and engage students in the experiential learning opportunity and ensure a meaningful trip for students, staff, and the university.

Reel is on the cutting edge of national research and the advocacy trip provides a forum to underscore the importance of research and development.

“At Virginia Tech, I am a research assistant at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute working with automated vehicle technology,” said Reel. “The R&D efforts of our U.S. institutions are not only advancing innovation sectors and making our world safer but changing lives.”

“It is inspiring to see students, both undergraduate and graduate, take interest in the federal government’s role in the support of higher education,” said Edens. “Their meaningful interaction with key lawmakers and officials makes a real difference in how our federal government views the value of higher education.”

In addition to meeting with lawmakers, students will have an opportunity to hear from policy advisors, lobbyists, congressional staffers, and leaders from higher education non-profit organizations. Students will also tour multiple sites in Washington, including the U.S. Capitol Building, learning more about the federal government and the democratic process.

Students attending this year’s Advocacy Trip will also have the opportunity to attend the 2016 New York Life ACC Tournament championship game on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.


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