ATLANTA – Showing off a new name, about 100 Augusta University students and administrators pitched booths in statehouse corridors Thursday and buttonholed lawmakers.
It was the first time all departments of the university have made a coordinated outing at the Capitol. Typically, the medical college, dental school, nursing students and various other groups visit the statehouse individually to roam the halls and talk to legislators about just their own program or profession.
Also, when the last legislative session began, the school had a different name and president.
“It’s an opportunity for these students to experience this,” said Dr. Gretchen Caughman, AU’s chief academic officer. “Not many of them will get this close to their governor and others at the state level, and it’s a great learning opportunity for them.
“And it’s also an opportunity, we believe, to have a presence here with folks in and out of this rotunda where the state’s work is done to understand Augusta University.”
Among the facets represented were nursing and medical students, the school’s new focus on cybersecurity, and the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.
ROTC Cpl. Jacorei Smith, a junior from Dublin, Ga., wore his dress uniform and was ready to tell legislators why he transferred from Middle Georgia State College.
Undergraduate Student Government Association President Amma Sarfo, a senior psychology major from Acworth, Ga., had been to the Capitol before to attend a meeting of the Board of Regents. And she’s already picked up some key lobbying technique by using the fact she attended the same high school as Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, to strike up a conversation with him about the university’s impact on the state.
Unlike most years, the school isn’t looking for funding for a particular project or building. So, the lobbying is more about building familiarity which will come in handy in future years when it is looking for funding.
“We have a lot of things in the works with our master facilities plan,” Caughman said.
And then there’s the name thing. It’s important to drive that home with legislators after four names in five years.
Sarfo chuckles about it.
“It’s really a journey,” she said. “It’s not a bad thing to me.”
Graduate Student Association President Evan Munson had specific legislation on his mind as he was talking to lawmakers. He’s pushing tax breaks for medical graduates who practice in underserved areas and for established physicians who agree to serve as adjunct professors so the new doctors can get supervised clinical experience.
“We’re trying to get Georgia students and medical students to stay in the state,” he said, noting that the best way to address Georgia’s doctor shortage is to offer more clinical slots where they can settle in and hopefully settle down.
A group of dental-hygienist students were talking about legislation specific their own profession. It would allow hygienists to tend to patients in nursing homes and similar facilities — as well as remote, rural areas — without a dentist being present.
“I’m hoping this bill will pass soon,” said Deshawn Simmons, a senior from Gwinnett County.
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