TSA brings campus government associations together to discuss college issues

The Texas Higher Education summit was held Nov. 14-16 at Texas A&M University for members of the Texas Students Association (TSA). Over 13 different student government associations from all over the state attended the summit, which brought student leaders together to discuss prominent issues that will be coming up in the Texas Legislature in the spring.

The conference was a three-day event consisting of workshops, speakers, and meetings. The legislative committee of Texas A&M’s Student Government Association set up all the sessions.

“This was an opportunity for Texas schools to come together and formulate our message and which policies we were going to focus on for the 81st [legislative] session,” Eric Garza, assistant director of legislative relations for Texas A&M’s SGA said. “We heard from two dynamic speakers, Dr. Erik Godwin, Assistant Professor with the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M, who spoke on effectively lobbying and Mr. Beto D. Gonzalez, former United States Assistant Secretary of Education who spoke on the power in negotiation of higher education policy.”

Between the two speakers at the workshop, most student leaders found something with which they could identify. The information passed on to them will be helpful in matters not only at the individual universities, but also on the state level.

“My favorite part of the conference was the workshop on lobbying taught by Dr. Goodwin,” Kent Willis, SGA President of Stephen F. Austin State University said. “All the speakers were great and taught us things that can help with the future of the Texas Students Association.”

The summit was also a place to meet different student leaders across over the state in order to form relationships and exchange ideas to further all institutions of higher education.

“It was good to meet with all the different delegates from all over the state and have an opportunity to talk about common issues like tax-free textbooks and the rising cost of tuition.” Jonas Chin, SGAVice-President of University of Houston said. “I was really in awe of all the student leaders who are so gung-ho on advocating on behalf of 500,000 students. It’s an exciting feeling.”

Delegates were sent from as far south as University of Texas-Pan American and as far north as Texas Tech University. The diversity of the conference was evident during discussions of issues that affected all the schools.

“The summit helped with following the main reasons for starting TSA in the first place, finding common ideas and concerns among all students and doing what is necessary to correct them,” Sam Dike, SGA President of University of Houston and TSA Chairman said. “We had the opportunity to exchange ideas, share problems, and come to [an] agreement on what the key issues facing students are. “

The summit showed the strength of the Texas Students’ Association in many ways, but it mainly cemented the ways the students could work together to get things done on a state level.

“The biggest benefit of this weekend was having the student leaders not only form relationships but also allowing everyone to get on the same page when it comes to lobbying,” Mark Gold, SGA President of Texas A&M University said. “This summit has given everyone the opportunity to meet each other, open lines of communication and be informed. I really feel it has laid the groundwork for TSA to succeed. Communication is key.”

There will be another TSA conference Jan. 10-11 at the University of North Texas. This meeting will serve multiple purposes, all of which will be important in the structure and future of TSA.

“The [purpose of the] meeting at UNT is to get the organization to come together and fully decide what will be [pushed] for in Austin and make the final platform official,” Jeff Kline, SGA President of University of North Texas said. “TSA will also be ratifying and signing the charter of the organization.”

The summit helped Sam Houston State University as a whole by opening communication and passing on ideas from other schools.

“Overall the summit was effective. We made good contacts and received a plethora of information to help us approach the Texas Legislature more efficiently and professionally,” Michael Perkins, SHSU SGA President, said.

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