Arpita Sinha at Coug Day at the Capitol 2023

Arpita Sinha

As a dedicated GPSA Senator and member of the Legislative Affairs Committee, I had the privilege of participating in the 2023 Coug Day at the Capitol for the first time but also making it my second journey to Olympia for GPSA. In my role with the GPSA, I've had the honor of representing our interests in legislative meetings both in Ellensburg and Olympia, advocating passionately for the needs of graduate and professional students at WSU. My participation in Olympia was especially memorable, as it provided me with the opportunity to meet with Washington legislators directly. This experience profoundly deepened my understanding of the legislative journey, from the introduction of bills to the enactment of laws at the state level. What truly enriched my experience this time around was leading a team with students from the Vancouver and Tri-Cities campuses. Hearing their unique stories and perspectives broadened my view of the WSU student experience, adding a rich layer to my advocacy work.  Our team had the privilege of holding meetings with Rep. Dan Bronoske, Rep. Lauren Davis, Rep. Steve Tharengar, and Rep. Jamila Taylor. We discussed specific legislation that resonates deeply with us. For housing, we supported HB2114, a bill aiming to regulate rent increases across Washington State—a step towards more affordable living for everyone. For childcare, we supported HB2101 and SB6038. On the front of professional licensing, we supported HB1889, which advocates for the rights of professional students to obtain their licenses regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. These endorsements aren't just policy positions; they're reflective of our commitment to the well-being and advancement of our peers. Coug Day at the Capitol was an opportunity for direct engagement with state senators and representatives, thus, allowing us a platform to collaborate with fellow Cougs, uniting in advocacy for essential supports.

My trip to Olympia and my experience at the capitol to mark the 2024 Cougs Day was exciting, phenomenal, and unforgettable. We were privileged to engage with high-ranking members of the WA executive and legislative arms. We received training on how to engage with government officials, we familiarized ourselves with the works of many lawmakers, and very early on Cougs Day, we were fired up by WSU government relations staffs stationed in Olympia, and we went ahead to spend the entire day engaging with key stakeholders across the rotunda. We met with and sought the support of senators and house representatives on current bills that, if passed, will improve students' lives in WSU and across the state. For example, we lobbied for bills seeking to expand the WA college grant, hire basic needs navigators on our campuses at 100% FTE, stabilize rent, lower the cost of childcare, expand the WSU native student scholarship, and ease the process of undocumented students joining the workforce after graduation. In doing this, we told our personal stories and the stories of other students regarding how these issues currently affect us and how they can be improved through legislation that will promote students’ success, welfare, and competitiveness after graduation. Particularly, my team, consisting of 3 students, Brian, Hailey, and myself, all from the Pullman campus, met with 3 senators, 1 representative, and the Lt. Governor and participated in a House committee hearing session. Excitedly, all the stakeholders we engaged with were very receptive to us and seemingly supportive of our proposals. Indeed, this trip is one of the most exciting and inspiring outings and exposures I have had as a WSU student, and I look forward to more.

Charles Ugwu’s 2024 Cougs Day Experience

Charles Ugwu

Golrokh (Rose) Maleki Coug Day at the Capitol

Golrokh (Rose) Maleki

As a graduate student, attending Coug Day at the Capitol in 2024 was an experience unlike any other. Stepping into the grandeur of Olympia's Capitol building, with its majestic dome and intricate architecture, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and responsibility wash over me. This wasn't just an ordinary visit; it was an opportunity to stand up for what I believe in and advocate for issues that are important to me and to countless others I represent at the College of Education and GPSA. Passionate individuals from my university, and how well-organized everything was giving me a sense of pride and determination. We were there to make our voices heard, to push for meaningful change in areas such as childcare, housing, and equitable and inclusive practices in higher education, and these critical Bills would directly impact the lives of Washingtonians and graduate and professional students. The Capitol itself provided a stunning backdrop for our advocacy efforts. Its grand halls echoed with the footsteps of history, reminding us of the importance of civic engagement and the enduring legacy of those who had come before us to fight for social justice and equity. It was empowering to see how our collective efforts could make a difference, as we met with representatives and senators, sharing personal stories and presenting compelling arguments for why our proposed legislation mattered. In a world where change often comes slowly, The Coug Day at the Capitol was a reminder of the crucial role that advocacy plays in shaping our communities and our futures. Advocacy isn't always easy. It requires dedication, resilience, and a willingness to engage in difficult conversations. But as I stood in the heart of Olympia, surrounded by fellow advocates and lawmakers, I knew that our efforts were making a difference. As I left the Capitol that day, I carried with me a renewed sense of purpose and a deep appreciation for the power of collective action to create a better, more just world.

Leading and advocating is something I am passionate about. Hence, I always look for various opportunities to showcase this. I was very excited when I was selected for the Coug Day at the Capitol. It was a great opportunity for me to meet with Washington State Legislators and advocate on behalf of all Cougs. My teammates were Savannah, Sebastian and Dillon. We had the opportunity to meet Senator Jim McCune and Rep J.T Wilcox. We also met with the Legislative Assistants of Rep Andrew Barkis, Rep Timm Ormsby and Rep Beth Doglio. It was a great time to sit with these people to discuss and lobby on various agenda items that directly or indirectly affect students at Washington State University.

The bills we advocated for were;

  1. Washington College Grant
  2. Basic Needs Proviso
  3. Rent Stabilization
  4. Childcare
  5. WSU Native scholarship proviso
  6. Undocumented students support

We hope at the end of the day, these bills or provisos we lobbied for will be passed. It will be a blessing to see that we played our part to make studying at Washington State University less stressful for students.

Edmund Larbi AFARI Coug Day at the Capitol

Edmund Larbi AFARI

Clara de Lira at the Washington State Capitol.

Clara de Lira

This year was the first time I have ever experienced lobbying at any State Capitol, or just generally being at any Capitol of any kind! Two years ago was the first time I decided to explore my curiosity about the inner workings of government through the GPSA Legislative Affairs Committee. I didn’t know much about how legislation worked, but I knew how passed legislation can deeply impact people’s lives. I knew that I voted for measures and people who would represent me in government at a local, state, and federal level, but I didn’t know how things pushed forward in practice. During my time in the legislative affairs committee, I learned a lot about how to navigate bill status, understand the state legislative process, and even write a testimonial to send to legislators or say at a live testimonial session to support a bill. When I finally went to Olympia this year, it was a realization of how far I have come in learning about how government works. I think Coug Day at the Capitol really provided a unique opportunity to engage with the senators and representatives directly and work together with other Cougs to advocate for causes that students care about, such as basic needs, childcare, and extended mental health resources. The idea that students can directly be within ear distance of the people who will ultimately write, debate, and decide whether a bill continues to pass really felt like what we said had direct weight on their position for a bill. 

I attended 2023 Coug Day as a GPSA Senator and member of the Legislative Affairs Committee. This experience placed me in a position to become more familiar with the process that bills are proposed and laws are passed by the House of Representatives and Senators at the state level. I am naturally an introvert, but feel most comfortable speaking up when I am in a position to advocate for someone else and armed with information. Therefore, I was surprised by how comfortable I felt connecting with lawmakers about issues pertinent to students, and I was able to share a little about my own experience as a student based at a Research and Extension Center. We were given information on each proposed bill and evidence of similar laws in other states, so I felt prepared to formulate an argument around the resources provided. I was also introduced to the representatives near me, which allowed me to become more familiar with the politicians that are most likely to impact my life on a local scale. By being teamed with undergraduate students based at the Vancouver and Tri-Cities campuses, I was able to learn more about the experiences of students outside of Pullman, which I found broadened my perspective on the student experience at WSU. I am very grateful for how this experience allowed me to work on communicating effective language and increased my confidence when speaking to others. I encourage any student who wants experience in communicating with others or considering a career working with policymakers to volunteer to take part in Coug Day. I feel I have grown from this experience.

Kayla Spawton and friends at the Washington State Capitol.

Kayla Spawton

Jacob Woodbury at the Washington State Capitol.

Jacob Woodbury

Coug Day 2023 was a blast! I was added to a group with Angelica, Dillon, and Charles. We were a no-nonsense group of advocates from all over the state, and I was impressed with how prepared and open my group was to meet with and revise our plans throughout Coug Day to meet legislators where they are. Our first meeting, with Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, helped us get momentum into the rest of our day. Cyndy was very friendly and willing to hear us about our ideas and bills. She was especially favorable to the mental health licensure bill, which could help WSU students access telehealth and therapy. Throughout the day, we reflected and revised our strategy for talking with legislatures. In the moment, my group members were happy to step up and take over when we were in the middle of a meeting if we forgot anything. At the end of the day, we took an impromptu meeting with Sen. Noel Frame in the gallery of the State Senate as she dashed between meetings. We re-started our presentation together smoothly, and I think Sen. Frame was impressed with how we were able to answer her questions. As I write, it’s February – so I’m not sure if our bills will pass. But I know we did a great job presenting for legislators who really care about our issues and want to help with the short time they have each year in session.

Coug Day at the Capitol: During my tenure as a Vice President of Legislative Affairs (VPLA), our Legislative Affairs Committee (LAC) successfully organized Coug Day at the capitol on Jan 23rd, 2023. On that day, 61 WSU Washington State University (WSU) students, including nine graduate students, visited Olympia, Washington, to meet 71 legislators, senators, and officers. The bills that we advocated for include:

  1. HB1399: Tuition waivers for indigenous students.
  2. HB1069: Implementing mental health counselor compact.
  3. HB1156: Extending the terms of eligibility for the Washington College grant. 
  4. HB1559: Student basic need bill, which includes affordable housing, food security, and childcare.

Our LAC team combines all the WSU student efforts, including graduate, professional, and undergraduate, through the Student Government Council (SGC) and all the students from across Washington State through the Washington Student Association (WSA). 

WSU is a state land grant university, and legislators at the state capitol make the major decisions on higher education. Your voice is important, so if you are passionate about student advocacy and want to make meaningful changes in the student's life, Coug Day at the Capitol gives you the best platform.  

Ajay Barman at the Washington State Capitol.

Ajay Barman