Students trade beach for politics

March 16, 2011

By Will DeWitt

Lariat Reporter

While most students were enjoying the beach or mountains during spring break, five students from Baylor's student government and the Baylor student ambassador program traveled to Washington, D.C. for the "Big 12 on the Hill," a program lobbying for causes that affect the Big 12 conference as well as Baylor in particular.

Katie Jo Baumgardner, a senior student senator and Baylor ambassador, Paul Baumgardner, Baylor ambassador and brother to Katie Jo, Michael Wright, student body president, Miriam Hobma, junior student senator, and Robert Goodwill, a Baylor ambassador, were in Washington, D.C. with the mission to show the United States Congress how involved students are in government's dealings with education.

The Baylor delegation met with other Big 12 student representatives to discuss the proposed cuts to the Pell Grant and how the cuts affect the multitude of students in the Big 12 who rely on it.

As nine million students in the nation need Pell Grants to obtain higher education, this issue was a major priority for the Big 12 student representatives.

"Cuts to education should be as minimal as possible because investing in higher education and investing in research helps not only students, like us Baylor students, but also helps the university, helps the state of Texas, helps the nation as a whole," Katie Jo said

On the second day, the Baylor lobbying group focused mainly on research funding.

Meeting with US Rep. Bill Flores and US Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas congressman, the group discussed funding for the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative, which looks to transform the old General Tire & Rubber Co. into a fully-fledged research building. The collaborative, in turn, would offer the Baylor engineering program its first doctoral program.

"As Baylor, through 2012 and through the strategic planning that's going on, moves forward in their efforts to be a major research institution, federal grants and federal funding are something that is very important when you are trying to make that next step into really the top research institutions," Katie Jo said.

Besides the two Congressional representatives, the delegation also met with several other important government figures, such as Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas). Wright said the group also met with Russ Sullivan, staff director for the Senate Finance Committee, and noted that he was just one of many Baylor graduates that are currently working on the Hill.

The Washington, D.C. program also allowed students to see opportunities available after and perhaps even before graduation.

"It was really nice to know that Baylor's preparing us for some really great opportunities because we see it in person in D.C.," Hobma said.