Top Islanders Represent University at Day at the Capitol

By Luisa Buttler | Published: March 06, 2019

Top Islanders Represent University at Day at the Capitol

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A diverse group of 30 Islander students representing all five academic colleges traveled to Austin on March 6 to meet with state representatives and senators during the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Day at the Capitol. Throughout the day, students learned firsthand about the legislative process while interacting with dozens of different House and Senate members including local delegates state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, state Rep. Todd Hunter, and state Rep. Abel Herrero.

“I decided to come to Austin because not only did I want to learn more about what physically happens at the Capitol, and what it looks like, but also because I want to let our representatives know how passionate our student body is about our academics, clubs, and organization,” said Kelsey Largent, senior political science major.

The day began bright and early as students boarded a 5 a.m. bus to take the 200-mile trek from the Island campus to the State Capitol. Students treated their role as University ambassadors with honor and respect – trading in their jeans and tees for suits and skirts. In fact, students spent weeks preparing for the visit, attending numerous training sessions to learn both proper etiquette for interacting with elected officials and more about Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s top legislative priorities. The Student Government Association (SGA) played a major role in organizing student participation.

“I came to the Capitol because I want to have a seat at the table to make sure my school and my community are well-represented in Austin,” said Jordan Nellums, SGA Freshman Senator, SGA First Year Council President, and political science major.

During their visits to various representatives’ offices, students discussed the University’s legislative priorities including maintaining current formula funding rates in the base bill, continued support for nonformula funding, and a tuition revenue bond request for an Arts & Media building.

“I have a heart for the arts because I played violin for seven years,” said Gabriella Colon, freshman biomedical sciences major. “I think getting a new arts & media building will help our program grow even more since the current building was designed when our enrollment was one-fourth of its current size.”

Additional priorities include a non-formula funding request for civil & industrial engineering, and non-formula funding support for academic & student success.

“The civil and industrial engineering programs are extremely important to Corpus Christi and the surrounding area, especially following a recent $50 billion industry investment,” said Morell Jenkins, junior political science major and chair of the SGA Diversity Committee. “Also, our University is hoping to increase the number of faculty and advisors. We really need that extra boost to keep students coming in, focused, and on track.” 

Students were welcomed from the floor of the House by Reps. Hunter and Herrero, while in the Senate, Sen. Hinojosa read a resolution officially acknowledging March 6 as Texas A&M-University Corpus Christi Day at the Capitol.

“Today has been fantastic,” said Nellums. “I couldn’t have expected it to be any better than it’s been. A highlight has been how receptive the legislators have been to us. They really want to hear from us because they won’t know what to work on unless we say something.”

Islander students, along with the University President and select staff, participate in Day at the Capitol each legislative session, which occurs in odd years.

“We are teaching our students today, and every day, to be engaged citizens,” said Dr. Kelly Quintanilla, President and CEO of A&M-Corpus Christi. “We hope that when they graduate, they become leaders in their community and champions for important issues and organizations, just like our legislators are for us at the Island University.”