Two MSE Graduate Students Participate in Civic Engagement at the Nation’s Capital

By Amanda Olavarria

UConn graduate students with Congressman Courtney's legislative director in Washington D.C. (left to right) Alexa Combelic, Tulsi Patel, Tanisha Williams, Manuel Rivas)

UConn graduate students with Congressman Courtney’s legislative director in Washington D.C. Left to right: Alexa Combelic, Tulsi Patel, Tanisha Williams, Manuel Rivas

Two UConn MSE graduate students Tulsi Patel and Manny Rivas were invited to attend the 2018 Catalyzing Advocacy for Science and Engineering (CASE) Workshop in Washington, D.C.

CASE is an innovative program that provides information about Congress, the federal budget, and appropriations processes to upper-classmen and graduate students in science, mathematics, and engineering. This opportunity is specifically geared towards STEM students who want to learn more about science policy. Students are taught the federal policy-making process and how to voice their research throughout their careers.

This three-and-a-half-day program provides participants with the tools for effective science communication and civic engagement. The students who attended this year’s workshop actively participated in interactive seminars about policy-making and communication. On the last day, students formed teams and held meetings with their elected members of Congress and congressional staff.

Tulsi stated, “Participants had the opportunity to voice their passion for science to members of Congress. The students from UConn had the pleasure of meeting Congressmen Courtney’s legislative director and talk about research and tenure as graduate students. This experience has not only taught me how to be a better advocate for science, but also a more engaged citizen in our democracy.”

This dynamic program bridges the gap between science and government policy. Instead of working in the classroom or the lab, MSE students Tulsi and Manny were granted the unique opportunity to explore the world of science through government involvement.

“It was an incredible experience learning about the federal budget process, how science policy is made, and communicating science to a broader audience. I gained insight on how to pave a career path in science policy, but more importantly, appreciate the process of how science is funded in this country,” Tulsi claimed.

Manny added, “Attending this workshop has provided me with a greater understanding of how policies are made and the vital role we as citizens and engineers play. It also emphasized the importance of how science influences policy, how policy influences science, and how the ability of communicating the importance of your work to a non-technical audience is needed.” These MSE students are not only making an impact for developments in materials science but also science communication through civic engagement.

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