Students spend day with legislators supporting independent colleges

McDaniel senior Alan Lyons.
February 26, 2013

The benefits of Maryland Independent Higher Education Day in Annapolis to students and legislators alike reach beyond promoting the importance of the state’s independent colleges and the Sellinger Program that provides financial aid to these institutions.

In mid-February, the Maryland Independent College and University Association (MICUA) brought more than 200 students – seven from McDaniel College – to Annapolis to meet with state legislators and participate in the Maryland legislative process. As Herb Smith, Political Science professor and director of government relations, explains in the State and Local Government class he’s been teaching for 40 years, state legislators are more accessible than their counterparts in Congress.

“In terms of the legislators themselves, it’s vitally important to put a face and personal narratives on the financial aid that Maryland provides independent institutions of higher education via the Sellinger Program,” says Smith, who has been taking a group of students to Annapolis for the past 15 years. “They (students) make a difference in Annapolis, and the difference matters.”

Alan Lyons, a junior Political Science major from Westminster, Md., has made the trip three times because he believes the cause is a good one and also finds that it is an excellent networking experience. Lyons addressed the student delegation at the start of the day, trying to help newcomers make the most of their time in the state capital.

“Smaller, private colleges are in a difficult position in the current economic, societal, and educational situation – undergoing cutbacks, programmatic reorientations, as money and popular sentiment trends toward other arenas,” Lyons says. “But they are still a valuable and highly necessary resource, both as an educational option for students and for the communities and societies in which they reside.”

Junior Political Science major Shannon Conway of Baltimore learned about the ways McDaniel benefits from state aid.

“For example some of the money given to us last year was used for library renovations, which helps students study more efficiently,” says Conway, who also cited the Sellinger Program, which this year funds 3.4 percent of McDaniel’s operating budget. “I wanted to thank the legislators for their support but it was also exciting to see them at work.”

Students spend day with legislators supporting independent colleges
McDaniel students with Political Science professor Herb Smith (3rd from left), and President Roger Casey (2nd from right).

Carroll County delegates Justin Ready and Nancy Stocksdale, a 1956 alumna of McDaniel, with state senator Joe Getty – all of whom regularly sponsor internships for McDaniel students – took time for meetings and conversation over lunch. Others met individually with students.

The conversations make a difference, says Kyle Connor, a senior Political Science major from New Market, Md., 
“Visiting legislators provides senators and delegates a first-hand experience with the Maryland students themselves showing that their legislative policies are working or need improvement,” Connor, a Political Science major, says.

Also meeting with delegates and attending Maryland Higher Education Day in Annapolis are sophomore Cody Knipfer of Ellicott City, Md., and Augustina Rius of Rockville, Md.; junior Kristen Hall of Essex, Md.; and graduate student Mary Grace Pazmany of Olney, Md.