Name: Jake Wrasse
Campus: University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
Major: Communication Studies
Graduation Year: 2016
Student Population: 10,164
Last week, the UW System Reps, made up of the 26 student body presidents of the University of Wisconsin campuses, came out to Washington, D.C. They met with members of Congress, senior staff, and education committee members to talk about the issues affecting their campuses and others all over the country. We got to meet with the group at our offices and followed up with Jake Wrasse, student body president at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, to learn more about the trip and why it is so important to have the student voice represented in Washington as Congress considers the future of higher education.
Q1: What problems do you see that could benefit from an increased student voice in Congress?
We came to Washington with a focus on college affordability, student debt, and campus safety. These issues are not unique to UW students, and are a great example of how issues—and the actions we take on them—have an impact on all across the country. We’re fortunate to have the expertise to do this advocacy work, and we’re humbled by the fact that we can have an effect that reaches beyond our state.
Q2: How do you and your colleagues prepare to meet with Members of Congress and their Staff?
Many of us started our involvement at state level; we’ve spent countless days at Madison Capitol talking about the importance of shared governance between the campus and the state, and the skills we’ve learned at the state level transfer beautifully to our work with Congress. Working at the national level, of course, requisites some serious preparation. We spent a good amount of time researching where bills were in the process, and we tried to get to know each legislator’s story, so that we could most effectively talk to them. We also had to make sure we scheduled carefully to make sure everyone’s time was respected.
Q3: How did your meetings in DC go? What was your greatest success?
As soon as we got off the Hill, we thought we had a productive series of meetings, not only because we met with very key members, but because we felt like we were listened to, had a real dialogue, and behaved in a manner that encouraged further discussion. We felt very good about the trip, not necessarily because we swayed a vote, but because we added a student perspective that may not trickle up from a college campus to DC. We established ourselves as powerful allies, and the stories we shared and the way we conducted ourselves made us a force to be reckoned with.
Q4: How would you advise other students to get started and bring their voice to the table?,
- Sometimes, you need a unifying challenge to catalyzed ideas and purpose in advocacy. At UW, that was the 2015 budget process. When we learned of a proposed $300 million reduction for the UW system, we knew we had to act.
- Make sure to have a broad knowledge base. This gives impact to your words, and it provides the resources you’ll need.
- Remember what you’re good at! Take what you’ve learned about representing students and employ that to a national stage. Think of it this way: you’re working on behalf of the entire state, not just an entire campus.