Thursday, July 15, 2010

AICUO Staff Make Congressional Office Rounds

We just flew in from Washington, D.C. and boy are our arms tired...haha. That joke will NEVER get old.

Todd Jones, President of AICUO, and Government Relations Director Dustin Holfinger (that's me) just returned from Washington, D.C., after a whirlwind of seven meetings over two days with old and new friends and acquaintances among the staff of the Ohio congressional delegation.

While in Washington, we wanted to make our rounds to offices we haven't visited in quite some time.
We started Tuesday morning with Moira Lenehan-Razzuri, legislative assistant to Sen. Sherrod Brown. Moira knows her higher education policy inside and out. While meeting with her for over an hour we had a chance to discuss a multitude of items, including proposed new rules released by the US Department of Education, the November election, and higher education funding provisions within the War Supplemental legislation. Her insight was, as always, very helpful.

Lunch Break. We decided
, since we were already there, to grab a bite at the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria with a friend of Todd's to discuss his new venture. Whatever anyone thinks of the variety and quality of food served, it’s hard to imagine a better location both for staffers and for Capitol visitors.

After lunch we made our way to
the office of Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Cleveland who represents Ohio’s 11th district. There we met with Aketa Simmons, a pleasantly already-versed-in higher education-policy staffer who doubles as the press secretary for the Rep. Fudge. A graduate of Belmont College in Tennessee, she is well aware of the importance of independent colleges. Our conversation with her included new and old stories of Notre Dame and Ursuline Colleges, which are both in Rep. Fudge’s district, as well as the issues we had come to discuss.

From Longworth, we
went next door to the Cannon House Office Building to meet with two staffers for Rep. Pat Tiberi, the Republican from Delaware who represents the 12th district: Adam Francis, deputy chief of staff and Kelli Briggs, legislative assistant. They have both been with Rep. Tiberi for a while, and Todd and I usually visit them on our Washington trips. They are well-versed in the higher education world and are concerned about our issues as well.

We then headed back to Longworth for a meeting with
staff from the office of Rep. Charlie Wilson, Ohio’s 6th district representative and a Democrat. Although his education legislative assistant, Anne Sokolov, was pulled away to the district at the last minute, we were pleased to meet Heidi Ross, Rep. Wilson’s health care specialist who showed a great deal of interest in our views of appropriate federal higher education policy. The first time we met with Rep. Wilson's staff in Washington, it was with Janetta King, now policy advisor for Governor Ted Strickland.

Our last meeting of the day was with Jeremy Harrell,
legislative and communications assistant to Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from the 3rd district. Jeremy seemed to really understand our concerns and the important role our colleges play in the grand scheme of higher education. Rep. Turner represents Wilmington College, University of Dayton, and the Kettering College of Medical Arts.

After all those meetings, Todd and I needed to debrief with NAICU,
our association’s national affiliate. By the time we finished up there it was close to six o'clock, and time for dinner and some baseball (All-Star game).

The next morning, we had two meetings before
heading back to National Airport. Our first was with Bethany Peck, legislative assistant to Republican 5th district Rep. Bob Latta from Bowling Green. Bethany attended Grove City College in Pennsylvania and was very engaged on the issues we discussed with her, mostly the definition of credit hour within the new US Department of Education rules.

At last, we reached the final meeting of our visit, with Rep. Jim Jordan, the Republican from Lima who represents the 4th district. Just four years ago, Rep. Jordan was a member of the Ohio Legislature. It is always good to see old friends doing well. After catching up the Congressman and Wesley Goodman, his legislative assistant, on current happenings in Ohio, we got down to business, discussing the provisions within the War Supplemental and the Maintenance of Effort provisions and their effect on our campuses, especially certain schools in his district, which includes Urbana, the University of Northwestern Ohio, Findlay, Ohio Northern, Bluffton, and the former MedCentral College of Nursing which is about to house the Dwight Schar College of Nursing.

We would like to thank all of the Congressional offices for their time and consideration of these important issues at hand. We enjoyed getting to know the staffers
we met and look forward to working with them.

-- Dustin A. Holfinger