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University of Illinois System Day at the Capitol Reflection

Research Associate Sam Theno reflects on his trip to the Capitol for Lobby Day 2024

On April 16, 2024, I attended the 2024 University of Illinois System Day at the Capitol in Springfield, Illinois with Associate Director of IPCE Norma Ramos. We were accompanied by UIC students and faculty, who were all in attendance to meet with state legislators and staff to advocate for the needs of UIC and the University of Illinois System.

The University of Illinois System Day in the Capitol is a one-day event in our state capitol of Springfield that brings system and university leadership, students, and alumni together to advocate for our state's priorities. When speaking with legislators, attendees are encouraged to share personal stories, statistics or anything that will help legislators understand why support for the U of I System is so important.

The event began with lunch with U of I Systems leaders and other attendees at the Illinois State Library Gwendolyn Brooks Building, across the street from the state capitol. President Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois Systems, provided opening remarks before we went to speak with legislators. President Killeen gave background on the day's event and spoke on the importance of sharing our experiences with the U of I System with legislators and staff.

After lunch, we split up into groups to head to the Capitol building to begin our lobbying with various other state organizations that were advocating at the capitol. Before attending, it was recommended to me that I bring comfortable walking shoes during the Day at the Capitol, and this part of the day absolutely proved that. My group spent the next four hours floating through the Illinois State Capitol Building, going up and down its beautiful three stories and traversing its underground passageways to drop off important materials highlighting the impact of U of I at the offices of legislators and staff. Later in the afternoon, we had our chance to meet and sit down with legislators.

My group was led by a student representative from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, and consisted of 3 undergraduate students from the University of Illinois - Chicago. These students were an inspiring group of young leaders, all from diverse backgrounds. Their majors spanned from sociology, business, and even biomedical engineering. Not all of these students were originally from Illinois, but all shared the same passion and love for their University of Illinois experiences, which they happily shared when we had the opportunity to speak with legislators.

During our meetings with legislators, we discussed the need for increased investments in the University of Illinois Systems. Education, workforce development, and research are all dependent on the state budget. We advocated for an increase to the U of I System’s existing state appropriations, which further empowers the university system to bolster its contributions to the Illinois economy and its residents. My group shared our personal experiences during our short but engaging discussions with 3 different legislators, who happily listened and shared similar sentiments. Before we knew it, it was time to get back on the bus and head back to Chicago.

My participation in this year’s University of Illinois Systems Day at the Capitol was an inspiring and uplifting experience. It was incredible to see not only our University of Illinois Systems student leaders and faculty come together to advocate for change, but residents from all over Illinois use their collective civic power to fight for a better future. I am looking forward to attending next year's Day at the Capitol, and I’ll be sure to bring better walking shoes the next time around.