Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 Fall Semester Recap and Spring Semester Preview

As another semester comes to an end and we welcome in 2012, I would like to take the time to reflect back on all that we have accomplished here at MSUSA.  It definitely has been a busy semester, especially since we were without an executive director for the full semester and Shannah Mulvihill our Director of University and System Relations was on maternity.  Though we were short handed the staff and officers continued to carried out the mission of MSUSA.  We held three successful board member and campus committee conferences as well as a full delegates assembly conference. Our student leaders have all worked hard on their respective campuses, spreading the work of MSUSA and engaging more students in decisions that affect them!

Johnathan Bohn, Director of Gov Relations and I traveled to Washington DC twice this past semester, once in July and once in September, taking along other students each time. While there discussing the Pell Grant and how outlining how potential cuts to the maximum or eligibility requirements would affect MN students, we developed many contacts which have helped launch MSUSA on a national level.  Our campus committees, board members and students of our association worked tirelessly to collect signatures for our petition in opposition to the proposed Pell grant cuts.  In one of the most successful campaigns in our associations history, we collected 2,100 signatures from university students.  In partnership with our sister association, Minnesota State College Student Association, we presented the petition, with over 4,200 signatures, to the MN congressional delegation in a press conference held at the Minnesota Capitol.  Education Trust, a new partner of our association, helped to launch the creation of this idea, but our students really took hold of this project and worked to educate as many students as they could on their campuses.

Our federal contacts also came to use when our association was invited to participate in a series of events with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) when they visited MN.  The CFPB  opened their doors July 1, 2011 and serves to protect consumers from predatory practices lending and other financial issues. The morning round table discussion allowed for people from across sectors of Minnesota to discuss openly the financial issues facing the people of MN.  Our association presented on student loan and credit card debit, an epidemic sweeping the nation and affecting many people, current students and alumni, in Minnesota. That evening, I represented our association and students across Minnesota who are affecting by the rising cost of college and experience the reality of student loan and credit card debt.  Many students from both our association and MSCSA were present to share their story with staff of the CFPB.

Our association was also invited to participate in the Governor Dayton's Job Summit, representing students in the discussions of how to fill the workforce gap.  The message heard at the Job Summit continues to resonate in our meetings at the MnSCU System Office.  Employers across Minnesota are looking for skilled workers with a variety of education levels.  Chancellor Steven Rosenstone presented a strategic framework to the MnSCU Board of Trustees that addresses the workforce gap and MnSCU's role in meeting the needs of MN but most importantly outlined three fundamental commitments of the system.  We have been and will continue to be actively engaged in these conversations as the system works to meet these commitments.

I am also proud to announce the publishing of our association's first Annual Report.  Director of Communications Jered Weber worked to compile the successes of this past year.  With the release of this past year's annual report we can look toward the future and prepare for another epic adventure.

Spring semester will be filled with another riveting legislative session which is set to include conversations of transferability issues, voter identification and the rising cost of textbooks.  Each campus has organized a Lobby Core and dates are set for them to visit their campus representatives at the Capitol.  Our association will also continue working on student financial literacy, debt protection and awareness and adovating against predatory lending practices affecting students.

With a new year, new initiatives and the resent hire of an Executive Director, this spring semester is guaranteed to be full of just as many successes as the last.  Our board members, student officers, staff and campus committee members are committed to continue work on our strategic plan and to represent, inform and organize students across Minnesota.  Look for another student association email in your campus email mid-January and sign up to receive MSUSA updates to stay engaged in the work that affects you as a student in Minnesota!

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