By Scott Strasser, October 27 2016 —
The Students’ Union held their second annual Lobby Training Program on Oct. 26, giving University of Calgary students a peek into the world of student-government relations.
The Lobby Training Program started last year as one of former SU vice-president external Romy Garrido’s platform points. The goal of the program is to introduce students to the process of advocacy and lobbying politicians.
The event on Oct. 26 included a presentation from Andrew McIntyre — a senior policy advisor to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi — a question and answer period and “group breakout sessions” in which participants created strategies for potential lobbying and advocacy scenarios.
Current SU vice-president external Tristan Bray facilitated the session. He said the Lobby Training Program helps fill a gap in the U of C’s political science curriculum.
“I know as a political science major, there aren’t any government relations classes, there’s nothing on lobbying or on advocacy, and that’s actually what working in politics often involves,” he said.
Bray said the SU is trying to figure out the role of the Lobby Training Program going forward. While it is currently a once-a-year event, he said it could eventually take place every semester.
“Last year the SU Lobby Training Program was a success, but when we came back to decide if we were going to do it again this year, we realized we didn’t really have any goals or objectives in place,” he said. “The purpose this year is to really assess the program, determine what students are looking for and really make sure this fills a gap in programming at the U of C.”
McIntyre is a former manager of external communications and government relations advisor for the SU. He spoke about the importance of comprehensive preparation before approaching influencers and decision-makers with an agenda.
“In every different facet of people’s lives, there are decisions made by other actors that affect them,” McIntyre said. “Understanding what those are and advocating for your interests in any particular scenario is certainly appropriate and correct in a democratic society.”
One of the student participants was first-year law and society major Feyre Gezahegn, who hopes to work as a lobbyist after she graduates.
“I thought it was very interesting,” Gezahegn said. “I wasn’t actually thinking it was going to be this kind of situation. I just thought it was going to be like, ‘this is what you’re going to do in the future.’ But we actually got to know several steps on how to improve our lobbying skills.”
Around 25 students participated in this year’s program. The training took place in the Cassio room in MacHall.