Nursing Students Lobby Priorities on ‘Day at the Capitol’
Three student leaders from the USF College of Nursing were among nearly 300 university students, alumni, and administrators attending USF Day at the Capitol on Feb. 13 in Tallahassee.
The annual student government-organized event gives students from all three campuses the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and to lobby state lawmakers on key priorities important to the university.
Nursing students Carmen Teti, Roberto Velasco, and Anthony Suda — who all serve on the USF Health Executive Student Leadership Board — attended the day-long event to engage with elected officials.
Participants met with state legislators, toured the state Senate and House chambers, and visited the state Supreme Court and the Florida Archives.
The group also advocated for three main legislative issues important to the USF System — maintaining preeminent status, completing the funding for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa, and ensuring the smooth consolidation of the three campuses.
The one-day excursion was an invaluable experience that offered a peek into the inner workings of state government.
Teti said she was proud to represent the College of Nursing, USF Health, and the university as a whole.
“It was very rewarding. It felt like I was taking ownership of where I come from, with USF Health and as a nursing student. It was such an honor. It was definitely worth it,” she said.
Teti said her group met with State Rep. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg), who was open-minded to their concerns about how consolidation could impact the USF St. Petersburg campus.
“It was interesting to hear from them and how receptive they were to listening to our views as to what we want to see and how they can help us,” she said.
This year marked the first USF Day at the Capitol since USF was named a Preeminent State Research University and the final one before USF System President Judy Genshaft retires this summer. To celebrate the occasion, Genshaft received a white coat from USF Health student leaders and an honorary degree from student government.
Velasco, a nursing student who will be graduating this spring, said he was able to experience the day in a unique way.
As a member of the USF student government relations team, he helped plan the day’s activities. He also helped write a proposed bill requiring defibrillators to be installed on public state university campuses. Velasco said he is hoping that proposed bill is added as an amendment to an existing state law.
Overall, Velasco said the day was a really fun and awesome experience. An added bonus: seeing the state capitol splashed in USF Bulls green and gold colors, even for just one day.
“The main thing I got out of it was the impact an individual can have. State lawmakers truly did care. They truly did listen, and one individual can make a change,” he said.
Fellow nursing student Suda said it was his first time in Tallahassee, even though he’s lived in Florida his whole life.
“Going to Tallahassee and seeing where our House and Senate and governor work was a really cool opportunity for me. It was very interesting to me — being able to see how policies are shaped that influence our everyday lives as university students on this campus,” he said.
Suda said he’s thinking about pursuing a career in nursing administration, and the trip gave him the chance to experience that policy-making side of health care in a very tangible way.
“Just to be able to go there and say that I’m a nursing student and represent USF Health as a whole, I think, is very impactful and I’m really happy I had the opportunity to do that,” he said.
Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing