Troy University’s Student Government Association is aiming to be among the STARS, or Student Teams Advocating Realistic Solutions.
Several students from the SGA attended the STARS Leadership and University Advocates Conference hosted by the activist group Higher Education Partnership in Destin, Florida, on Aug 2-4.
According to its website, “The Higher Education Partnership is an advocacy organization representing students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters of Alabama’s four-year public institutions … the Partnership’s goal is to provide a common voice and organized effort to take a stand for Alabama’s public universities.”
Its subsidiary STARS was formed with the purpose of teaching students the issues facing higher education, coaching them in advocacy, and providing leadership training. Higher education consists of undergraduate through doctoral programs.
Each Student Government Association has a STARS committee composed of members who are committed to advocating for higher education.
Troy alumnus Will Thompson, the 2012-13 Troy SGA president and 2012-13 chairman of the University Student Government President’s Council, said that the STARS Program provided advocacy skills and prepared him for future endeavors.
“Many of the advocacy skills I obtained by virtue of my involvement with the STARS program are still of major importance in my current line of work,” Thompson said. “For example, writing a letter to a legislator is such an underrated skill, yet it is at the core of effective advocacy.
“The STARS program educates its students how to be effective advocates within all levels of government.”
Legislators, faculty, advisers, and SGA members from 14 public universities in Alabama were involved in the partnership.
Jorge Solis, a senior political science major from Pell City and SGA vice president of legislative affairs, said that when students build relationships with administration and legislators, they have the capacity to influence local and state policy.
“The key to advocating for higher education is combining resources and building relationships to affect change,” Solis said.
He also said that steps for advocating could include calling legislators, writing legislators, and even having lunch with legislators.
Twelve out of 67 counties in Alabama have a higher education institution in their region, totaling approximately 150,000 voters, according to the Higher Education Partnership website.
Students at Troy can also affect change by participating in Higher Education Day on Feb. 25, traveling to Montgomery, and joining other universities to support higher education funding.