Students, faculty and staff head to Austin for UTSA Day at the Capitol


Photo Courtesy of UTSA

Students, staff and faculty pose during UTSA Day at the Capitol.

Gauri Raje, News Editor

Last month, students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to visit the Texas Legislature in Austin on the occasion of UTSA Day at the Capitol.

“UTSA Day at the Capitol is an opportunity for the university to share its rapid, upward trajectory with state leaders and decision-makers by showcasing the positive impact UTSA has on our local and state economies,” Jason Hassay, associate vice president for government relations, said. 

According to Hassay, since the university receives a considerable amount of funding from the Texas state Legislature, it is important for the university to “engage with the legislative process and for elected leaders to understand the value UTSA brings to Greater San Antonio and to Texas.” 

“We wanted to highlight the transformational research being conducted, shine a spotlight on the amazing faculty and staff that help the university to achieve academic accolades and introduce some of our exceptional students,” Hassay said.

Some of the university’s accomplishments highlighted this year included its recent R1 designation and the opening of the new School of Data Science.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Jasmin Paquet-Durand Ford was one of the student body members that participated in the trip to Austin.

Paquet-Durand Ford explained that the event is one that universities commonly partake in. It provides opportunities for representatives from the university to engage with state lawmakers.

“Part of it is kind of teaching students the legislative process [and allowing them to] witness that first hand,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. “As a state school, we do rely on funding from the state. And so, it’s the opportunity to really put a face to the name [and] for legislators to have the opportunity to see who these students are. Because, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. There’s a lot that goes into it, but at its core, it’s all about students.” 

The event was planned by the Office of the President and the Governmental Relations Department at UTSA in collaboration with Student Affairs and Student Activities. Applications for the event were released and interested students had the opportunity to apply within a certain time window. The organizers also reached out to certain departments to have students from these departments apply specifically. 

“They wanted to get a wide, diverse range of students, and that was taken into account,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. 

Paquet-Durand Ford, along with the SGA Vice President Shaca Sweet, was requested to go as student body representatives. Apart from this, around 10 SGA members were selected to go, and many of them attended because they were part of other on-campus activities and organizations. 

During the event, UTSA was recognized by the Texas House in HR 266 and by the Texas Senate in SR 211. Both bills recognized Feb. 22, 2023, as UTSA Day. 

Paquet-Durand Ford was recognized on the House floor, along with President Eighmy and UTSA’s two legislative scholars. She also had the opportunity to go on the Senate Floor accompanied by President Eighmy, Chancellor Milliken and two legislative scholars when the aforementioned bill declaring Feb. 22, 2023, as UTSA Day at the Capitol was being read. 

Following lunch, Paquet-Durand Ford had the opportunity to interact with senators. She was part of a group of eight students who were split into four even groups. Each group was accompanied by a governmental relations person and one of four UTSA vice presidents in attendance. The groups had scheduled meetings with legislators.

“What that looked like was sitting down with the legislator, presenting them with materials about UTSA’s legislative priorities, and above all else, just sharing our experience and asking any questions they may have specifically for students,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. 

At the same time, the rest of the students were given packets and lists so that they could walk around the Capitol, giving the materials to all the other legislators that were present in their offices. 

Other events that took place during the day included a cybersecurity showcase, mini-concerts conducted by student musicians and a research showcase. 

“This was definitely one of the top three moments of my entire presidency,” Paquet-Durand Ford said. “As students, sometimes, it can be frustrating because we want to have our voice heard, and we want to make sure that [the] conversations in higher [education are] really centered around students. So, UTSA Day at the Capitol [was] really about making sure that the conversation is ultimately focused on students, and it was just such an honor and a privilege to be a part of that.”