Leadership comes in many forms on the Sonoma State University campus and students have many different leadership choices to choose from. Some students might take the sorority or fraternity route, while others want to be peer mentors, community service advisers or participate in clubs and organizations.
However, for any students that enjoy topics like political science and social justice activities and events, they may want to attend the California Higher Education Student Summit. This conference occurs annually in Sacramento and is specifically for California State University students. The conference, open to students across the entire CSU, is accepting applications until Feb. 26. More information on the annual conference can be found at csustudents.org.
The California State Student Association hosts this event in order to allow students to meet state leaders, gather information about how the California State Universities run and how to successfully lobby. Last year, Claudia Sisomphou, Associated Students senator for sustainability, attended this conference. Sisomphou attended this conference with fellow students: Bernadette Butkiewicz, Mercedes Mack, Anita Dunkel Itnyre, Kian Khatam and Nick Carter.
“My favorite part about the conference are the private meetings that students are able to attend,” said Sisomphou. “In these meetings students are able to meet with California senators and assemblymen.”
When Sisomphou attended last year’s conference, she was able to share a student story that she heard at an open forum Sisomphou held about the impact of student “success” fees. Her main goal at the private meeting was to persuade senators and assemblymen that students do not want to pay for student fees. After Sisomphou met with these senators, she felt very accomplished and that she had appropriately informed them of how students truly feel about student fees.
Even though Sisomphou has always participated in volunteering within her communityshe wasn’t always as passionate about advocating for social justice and lobbying.
What was holding Sisomphou back was that she was not sure how to take her activism to the next level. Until she attended this conference and got more involved with Associated Students all of that changed for Sisomphou.
The greatest thing she gained from this conference was the confidence to speak up against decisions which negatively affect students or higher education and the realization that local representatives are there to listen.
Sisomphou also believes students so often feel like politicians don’t care about their personal struggles or that they are too immersed in their own agendas.
This conference proved to her that this isn’t the case, Sisomphou said. “The senators and assemblyman are so appreciative of those who take the time to meet with them, and they are craving public input,” she said.
For Sonoma State Political Science Professor Keith Gouvia, believes this conference allows students to learn what it takes to lobby.
When Gouvia went to the University of Hawaii, there weren’t many opportunities for students like the California Higher Education Student Summit.
Opportunities such as the California Higher Education Student Summit allows California legislators to hear from younger voices, according to Gouvia.
He continued to statelearning how to access policymakers will provide long-term benefits for students. Without students voices, senators and assemblyman will not know what students want to see change.
For Crista Facciola, a sophomore global studies major, believes, “it’s incredibly important for students to be aware of the logistics surrounding their campus; and it is even better if they know who represents them directly.”
For this year’s conference, students can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also students that areinterested need to apply by Feb. 26, 2016, since this conference is occurring March 12-14.