Your senators and representatives spend significant amounts of time in their home districts and are eager to meet constituents (you!) on the ground. One week per month and the entire month of August are “recess” for the US Senate and House of Representatives. Your congressional delegation is typically working at home during these recess periods. The “congressional calendar” shows dates that you can expect your Senators and Representative to be at home.
Visiting members of Congress in Washington, DC, is great, and we certainly encourage you to do so. But, visits at home can give great value to you, your college or university, the AMS, and the larger science community.
Congressional members (find yours here) are concerned with the health of the institutions of higher education in their districts and are proud of these institutions’ research accomplishments and the students educated. They want stories to tell about inspiring students, and innovative programs (research and teaching) at their two- and four-year colleges and research universities. How do they get these stories? One way is that constituents (like you) bring compelling stories to their attention. We can take responsibility by sharing about individual student’s paths to and through college; interesting STEM education initiatives on campus; and the great innovations coming out of our research programs.
As an example, AMS President Ken Ribet (light-colored sweater) and other UC Berkeley faculty and students hosted US Congressman Jerry McNerney (blazer). Representative McNerney is a PhD mathematician and an advocate for mathematics and mathematicians in Congress. After breakfast, Congressman McNerney toured engineering facilities, led by nuclear engineering graduate student Marissa Zweig (white sleeveless).
What should you do if you want to invite a Congressional member to campus?
- Think of what physical facilities you will show them (a spiffy new science center, a particular lab or institute that is federally funded, a conference you are holding on campus which they might attend and be invited to give some remarks, etc.).
- Think about who will be a part of the visit (undergraduates from the district who have overcome odds to be where they are, students engaging in interesting projects, early career faculty members, etc.).
- Think about who you should team up with (faculty in other departments, etc.).
- Talk with the folks in your government relations office, and this is best done in advance of all planning you do. Most universities and many colleges have such an office and they can give you ideas, and provide support. At the least, they will want to know if a Congressional member is going to be on campus, PLEASE let them know!
- Do not think only of federal legislators; we also encourage you to invite state and other local politicians to campus!
- In addition to working with your government relations office (if you have one), the AMS Office of Government Relations can help you craft your visit. Contact us at: email@example.com
Final, final words (easy first steps to take):
- You can begin the process of engagement with policy issues by participating in webinars. There is one scheduled for July 26 at 2 pm. It is run by DC colleagues whom I work with regularly. Register for the webinar here. From their description: “This experienced panel will explain not only why continuing the dialogue in the district is essential, but also offer suggestions, advice and share experiences about a range of ways for scientist to engage with elected officials while they are home in their districts, such as inviting Members and their staff to campus to see first-hand the NSF-funded research and meet with researchers and students.” I’ll be there, so feel free to send questions to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) after the webinar.
- Take a look at the “Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally” website. Have a look at their checklist, and if you take action, submit a postcard.