Skip to main content

Titan student ambassadors go behind the scenes in Washington, DC

Community Engagement News Release Dec 22, 2023

IUSB student ambassadors and chaperones pose near the U.S. Capitol From left: Ashley Rose, Elizabeth Bennion, Emilee Edmonds, James Schultz, Rob DeCleene, Joe KurtzSometimes even short trips can have a long-lasting impact. That was the goal as four students from IU South Bend headed to Washington, DC to represent the campus as student ambassadors.

James Schultz, Emilee Edmonds, Ashley Rose and Joe Kurtz joined Chancellor Susan Elrod, American Democracy Project (ADP) Director Elizabeth Bennion and Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Advancement Rob DeCleene on the trip.

It was a trip filled with “firsts” for the students. Rose, for example, had never traveled on an airplane.

“I’ve been to DC three times, but I never have experienced the kind of tour I got this time,” Schultz said.

That tour of the Capitol Building was personally led by U.S. Representative Rudy Yakym, an IU South Bend alum.

“I could see how passionate he was for our campus and for us. I haven’t really seen that from a politician. Experiencing that first-hand was amazing,” Schultz said. “He’s really excited about this university and what students are achieving, and I could feel the passion he has for Congress.”

It’s those types of interactions organizers were hoping the students would get during the trip.

“These are students who have been working to get people on campus involved in the political process, but they’ve not been to Washington, DC to experience the process in person,” Bennion said. “We wanted them to have the experience of talking to their representatives at a national level.”

Bennion said the students helped strengthen the campus relationship with elected officials, were able to experience first-hand how conversations with elected officials happen and see how university representatives lobby for the campus.

“We do a lot of classroom work, but they got to practice advocacy. Hopefully, they now feel empowered to advocate for issues that are important to them,” Bennion said.

In addition to Representative Yakym, members of the group met with Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun to update them on developments at IU South Bend and to discuss critical state and federal laws shaping regional public universities.

“It’s extremely important for our elected officials to speak with our students and see how their support of our campus results in the aspirations and impressive successes of our students,” said IU South Bend Chancellor Susan Elrod. “Experiences like this also expand the understanding that our students have of potential careers and the impact they can have on the world around them.”

The students also spent time visiting the IU headquarters in Washington, DC and met several alumni who work directly for members of Congress. Others are working as lobbyists, attorneys, and technology specialists – each of whom have found their own way to shape public policy and make a positive difference in people’s lives. During a visit with someone from the Brookings Institution, they learned about the lobbying process and working for a “think tank.”

Schultz said the trip was an eye-opening experience for him.

“It was interesting to meet with IU alums who are working in DC and get insight from them. The city is not just for politics. I think it’s important for students to gain that insight and experience,” Schultz said. “I think it’s about learning the practical life experiences you can’t get from a lecture or book. It helps you see what possibilities are out there. I’ve had a chance to meet local candidates through ADP, but in DC, there are a lot of people working in the field to achieve their goals.” 

The trip may have sparked new interests for Schultz, a criminal justice major who recently added a second major in political science. He said he may pursue a political internship before he graduates in 2025.

“It’s definitely on my radar now. The trip opened my view to things outside of criminal justice,” he said.

Bennion said the trip was prompted by Representative Yakym, who encouraged a visit by the local students.

“He is a proud IU South Bend alum and took us under his wing. He took us to places that are normally ‘members only.’ The students saw someone who graduated from their alma mater in that setting. I think it’s important for them to see what fellow grads have done with their degree in politics,” she said.

“I’ve always been interested in politics. That’s why I got involved with ADP on campus. I think it’s important to make sure our community is informed,” Schultz said. “Helping people understand how the system works and providing transparency is important. I want to be a part of that.” 

Bennion said she hopes the students have a better understanding of ways they can work in areas outside of politics and help shape policies and push ideas.

The trip was a pilot program for the campus. Organizers hope it leads to future experiences for students.

“We want to create a network for our students who are interested in working in DC, so they have contacts and connections once they get there,” Bennion said.

IU 2030: Student Success and Opportunity

IU South Bend will ensure the long-term success of all students – undergraduates, graduates, professional students, and online and lifelong learners – by providing the highest quality of education through a rich and engaging environment.

See our full 2030 plan here

More stories