MEDIA, Pa. — Four Penn State Brandywine student leaders shared their Penn State stories with elected officials in Harrisburg during Advocate Penn State Capital Day on March 30. They were among 80 students from across Penn State’s campuses who met in the state Capitol to advocate for the University’s annual state appropriation, which supports a tuition break for Pennsylvania resident students and several Penn State programs that have an important impact across the commonwealth.
Student leaders representing Brandywine were:
- Dana Hallahan, president of the Lion Ambassadors and co-chair of the Brandywine Events and Activities Support Team.
- Khafren Smith, captain of the men’s soccer team and member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.
- Matt Wickel, current vice president and immediate past president of Brandywine’s Student Government Association.
- Himani Vommi, president of the Information Sciences and Technology/Security and Risk Analysis Club and co-chair of the Brandywine Events and Activities Support Team.
The Brandywine students appreciated the opportunity to have their voices heard by their elected representatives. Between scheduled meetings and impromptu conversations, the students spoke with Sens. Carolyn Comitta, Tim Kearney and Katie Muth and Reps. Gina Curry, Darisha Parker, Craig Williams and Dan Williams. Kearney also brought the students onto the floor of the Senate chamber and talked about the art, architecture and history of the building.
“While speaking with them, I shared my perspective as a student leader and how my peers and I would benefit from increased state funding,” Hallahan said. “I found the officials to be open to my viewpoint, and I am thankful for the time they allowed me to express my thoughts about Penn State’s influence on my life.”
“We had an intriguing conversation about education, retention of graduates in the commonwealth, and circumstances for individuals living in the community that Rep. Parker presides over.”
—Khafren Smith , Penn State Brandywine student
“I was able to sit down with my representative, Darisha Parker, and we had an intriguing conversation about education, retention of graduates in the commonwealth, and circumstances for individuals living in the community that she presides over,” Smith said. “I really appreciated her time and the insight she provided for my questions.”
“I never thought an undergraduate student at a Commonwealth Campus like me would have had the opportunity to speak directly with people making decisions for our state,” Vommi added. “The legislators were very approachable, and I was glad they were interested in hearing about our goals, experiences and concerns from our Penn State experience. I spoke about our Schreyer Honors program, scholarships, life as a commuter student, and civic and community engagement.”
The day in the Capitol also was a learning experience for the students.
“This trip provided me with new knowledge about what legislators do on an average day in Harrisburg, as well as understanding how the state plays a part in making residents’ education more affordable,” Smith said. “During the visit, I learned that the path to becoming a legislator is very diverse and the common denominator amongst those I met was the passion to foster change for the constituents in their area.
“I learned how an individual’s voice impacts elected officials’ understanding of the importance of Penn State and its mission to inspire Commonwealth Campus students to become future leaders,” Hallahan explained. “When a whole community comes together to speak with one voice, legislators listen.”
“I learned how an individual’s voice impacts elected officials’ understanding of the importance of Penn State and its mission to inspire Commonwealth Campus students to become future leaders.”
—Dana Hallahan , Penn State Brandywine student
“Talking with the legislators was a humbling yet eye-opening experience,” Vommi added. “It really felt like a two-way street in which both sides were learning new things about each other. Before this experience, the Pennsylvania government felt more like an abstract concept that wasn’t as approachable to a college student. Now that I am able to put faces to these legislators’ names, the idea of a state government feels much more tangible and within reach.”
Brandywine Director of Strategic Communications Bill Tyson, who escorted the students to Harrisburg, said he was impressed by how poised and articulate the students were.
“Our students were prepared, well-spoken and presented themselves very professionally in their meetings,” Tyson said. “They were great ambassadors for our campus and our University. Both the students and the legislators enjoyed the conversations.”
Brandywine students, faculty, staff and alumni also participated in the virtual advocacy component of Capital Day, sending emails to their elected officials.
Sponsored by Advocate Penn State and Penn State’s Office of Government and Community Relations, Advocate Penn State Capital Day serves as the University’s largest single-day advocacy event. It offers an opportunity to demonstrate the impact of Penn State on the commonwealth while advocating for an accessible and affordable world-class education.