ICI Student Lobby Day

By Lorena Oplinger

On Tuesday, April 9, a group of Grace students and faculty members were invited to attend the biennial Student Lobby Day at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, Ind. This event was planned and hosted by the Independent College of Indiana (ICI).

Kearstin Criswell, director of student involvement, and Dr. Jared Burkholder, chair of the department of history and political science, were the faculty members who accompanied six students on this field trip to the State House.

The students and staff members met at Grace and departed from Indiana Hall at 7:45 a.m. Upon their arrival at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, ICI Executive Assistant for Administration, Linda Meador, and Executive Assistant to the President, Kelly Smith, were greeting, welcoming, and guiding the attendees.

“Lobbying is about state grants,” Meador stated. “It started in 2005, takes place every two years during the budget year, and the budget for this year will be completed by April 29, 2019,” Meador informed everyone.

David Wantz, president and CEO of the Independent Colleges of Indiana, shook hands with some of the attendees and welcomed Grace students to the State House. According to Wantz, the State House is the “temple of democracy.”

Then, Wantz addressed the entire audience in the auditorium. He provided a brief summary of his job as an ICI president and explained what lobbying really is and why it is important for state senators and representatives. According to Wantz, ICI is the seventh largest employer in Indiana, that has produced 30 percent of its graduates. ICI represents 30 private, non-profit colleges and universities in Indiana. Therefore, he recognized the importance of helping students with financial assistance. Senators and representatives also recognized that it is “valuable to the State of Indiana to offer student grants,” Wantz affirmed. “Helping folks in Indiana to move forward” is their main goal.

One of the guest speakers invited to this events was Legislative Intern Director, Tyler Murrell. “What goes on in the State House benefits everybody in Indiana,” he said.

During this field trip, Grace students had the opportunity to meet and talk to Brennan Murray, a political science and history graduate from Grace College, and current Legislator Intern of Sen. Justin Busch and Sen. Jim Buck. According to Murray, “53 percent of the budget goes to education.” And for this reason, senators and representatives “spend most of their time working on issue related to it.”

Some of the students had the opportunity to meet and speak with Rep. David A. Wolkins, from Warsaw, Indiana. Rep. Wolkins was familiar with Grace College; he remembers attending of Coach K’s games a few years ago. For Rep. Wolkins, “Helping people is my favorite part of my job.”

Rep. Wolkins has been working on the Legal Act. The purpose of the act is to make information more available and accessible online. He also talked to the students about the Water Sewage Plant Project in Warsaw. He knows that it has been an important issue for his constituents and the opinions among them are divided. “There is not enough support,” he said. “Only 15 percent of the people approved this project.” So he is currently working on a bill that would require at least 30 percent of the voters’ approval to pass any projects.

Lastly, Rep. Wolkings discussed with the students the importance of providing more childcare centers in this community, but to make this possible, some of the buildings around this area need to comply with the state regulations.

Image above: (Back, L to R)Kearstin Criswell, Olivia Bottorff, Lorena Oplinger, Jared Burkholder, (Front, L to R) Hannah Gray, Ericka DeBoest, Anna Steely, and Jalen Posy spent the day at the State House for the ICI Student Lobby Day on April 9, 2019.