As I was sitting in the weekly Student Government meeting over a month ago, reporting on the news, I was surprised to hear about an opportunity offered by Students United to attend their Advocacy Conference in Saint Paul for free.
Initially, I heard the word “conference” and figured it would be a boring situation of panel after panel, and was inclined not to attend. However, when they said that I would get a free hotel room for the night and lunch on Saturday… let’s just say I am easy to please, so I signed up immediately.
A little background, Students United is a nonprofit organization that represents all students that are in the Minnesota State System. The board of the organization is made up entirely of student government presidents from every campus.
As I attended the mixer on Friday night, I was able to network and get to know several student leaders from other campuses within the Minnesota State System, from Metro State all the way to Bemidji.
It wasn’t until bright and early the next morning when I really figured out what I was there for on that day.
My Saturday was chock full of sessions designed to inspire student leaders on different ways to develop their skills, specifically when it comes to advocacy.
One session that spoke to me was a discussion on student loans and student debt. We sat in small groups and expressed different issues that come with the student loan crisis that each and every student experiences to some extent.
We ended the day with a town hall discussion among several students about issues that we wanted to see brought to the Board of Trustees.
Topics during this included food insecurity on campuses, housing issues that students face and international student problems.
A big topic was that of student compensation, particularly student leaders, who’s stipends often function as a clever way to subvert minimum wage. Surprisingly, the general consensus in a room full of student leaders was that student leaders deserve more compensation.
I, being a newspaperman, shamelessly advocated for the importance of independent newspapers at the university level.
Overall, I would highly recommend any student who is even slightly interested in learning more about opportunities to lead and advocate.
Header Photo: This year’s Student Advocacy Conference was held in St. Paul Minn. with students attending from schools all over the state. (Maxwell Mayleben/The Reporter)
Write to Maxwell Mayleben at Maxwell.Mayleben@mnsu.edu