Campus representatives travel to Harrisburg for Advocate Penn State Capital Day

man at podium with students standing behind him

Penn State President Eric J. Barron addressing staff and students in the Capitol's rotunda, at Advocate Penn State Capital Day on March 20, 2019.

Credit: Zack Rosen

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Students and administrators from three Western Pennsylvania campuses converged on the state Capitol in Harrisburg, along with many other Penn State community members, to demonstrate the University's statewide impact and advocate for the delivery of accessible and affordable education.

Students from nearly every Penn State campus attended Advocate Penn State Capital Day, held on March 20, to meet with representatives in their offices to discuss tuition, budget, educational programming, and economic growth. The event was sponsored by Advocate Penn State and the Office of Government and Community Relations.

As the delegation from Penn State Beaver, Greater Allegheny and New Kensington arrived in Harrisburg, the representatives immediately began sharing their commonalities, backgrounds and experiences with other administrators, students, alumni and state legislators.

“I am so pleased the students had this opportunity to meet with elected officials, and I was also appreciative of Representative Austin Davis’ time with the students and his inspiring message,” said Jacqueline Edmondson, chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Greater Allegheny. “This is a great opportunity for students to learn about state government and how to become involved in civic life.”

Davis spoke to Greater Allegheny’s students about some of the challenges he faces when it comes to legislation for higher education and how students and staff can get involved to make their voices heard.

“Penn State helps students further their education to make a change in the world,” said Tommi Barnes, a student at Greater Allegheny. “We become the voice of a future generation and being a part of Penn State gives you a chance to show who you are and the differences you can make.”

Brandon Burchette, a senior communications student at the New Kensington campus, was chosen to speak to the crowd in the Capitol Rotunda during the event. He was able to share his personal story of how Penn State New Kensington helped put him on a positive trajectory toward a successful future. 

Burchette started his speech by quoting Australian activist Christine Caine, saying, “Sometimes when you feel like you’ve been buried in the dark, you’ve actually been planted.”

“At a YMCA located 15 minutes from the campus, I met a member of the Penn State New Kensington basketball team, who invited me to try out,” continued Burchette. “After making the team, I applied and got accepted.”

“It’s gratifying to have a student stand up and represent the circumstances a campus student goes through,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor at Penn State New Kensington. “While Brandon’s experiences are unique to him, it really speaks to what a lot of our students go through. I think everyone who is associated with a Commonwealth Campus, including legislators, should be proud.”

At the end of the day, attendees were given Penn State’s signature treat, Berkey Creamery ice cream. 

Cindy Chen, a sophomore at Penn State Beaver where she is secretary of the Student Government Association, said she was interested in attending Capital Day because she was on the Government Affairs Committee of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments her freshman year.

“I expected it to be very intimidating,” Chen said. “But it was a really good learning experience for my first time at Capital Day … Everyone was very friendly.”

Chen said the day was fast paced, but very educational. “I feel like I got a lot out of it,” she said.

“Today was filled with unity and inspiring passion for the continuation of an affordable, world-class education,” said Amani Blakney, student at Greater Allegheny. “As we rallied, you could feel students’ spirits wanting to stimulate change and betterment for the Commonwealth Campuses.”