By Marybeth Peluzzo,
A bus full of about 27 students left KU early Thursday morning on Feb. 22. The bus was headed to the state capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa. to participate in a rally and the budget hearing for PASSHE, as well as to meet several senators to express their love for attending a state college.
The majority of the students involved with Student Government Board and a few others tagged along to represent various organizations on campus, such as Connections, Veterans Services and different Greek life fraternities and sororities.
President Hawkinson also attended the discussions and the budget hearing. He said, “I’m delighted for a huge turnout from the students, it’s truly eye-opening.” Students from all 14 PASSHE schools went to Harrisburg and each school had at least 15 students.
The goal Hawkinson had for this day was to serve the students and make KU, “enriching and affordable as possible.” Hawkinson then explained that falling enrollment has been an issue at KU and there’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle when it comes to lowering tuition. “It’s labor costs, inflation, appropriation, tuition and fees, and KU itself has little control, when it comes to rearranging the pieces,” said Hawkinson.
PASSHE asked the senators for a 73-million-dollar budget increase, the purpose of this being to lower tuition for students and make life after graduation a little easier. Hawkinson said he’s hopeful PASSHE will get 15 million. He said, “It’s a difficult time, the state itself is also struggling with their budget.”
I attended this conference to represent Veteran Services and honestly didn’t know much about it beforehand. I was able to meet senators and hear all about the state systems success stories. The rally that everyone at the conference was able to participate in is where I heard what PASSHE’s plans are. I soon discovered that PASSHE is planning to change their system to make it more student-focused.
Various “products” of the state system spoke with the students who attended the conference gathered on the main stairs in the rotunda of the state capitol building. The speakers or “products” consisted of Chancellor Karen M. Whitney, Shippensburg University President Laurie A. Carter, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association President Brian Swatt and KU’s SGB president, and one of three students on the board of governors, Molly Gallagher.
“I also am a first-generation college student who understood what ‘affordable’ truly meant when looking for a university to attend, and that was Kutztown; that was the State System,” said Gallagher. “The education I am receiving both inside and outside the classroom has been incredible. That’s what these universities are about; that’s why we’re all here today.
“For us to be able to continue to succeed as students, we need the state to continue to invest in us, and in our universities. It is an investment that really does benefit everyone who lives in Pennsylvania, not just us individually. Collectively, we are Pennsylvania’s future.”
Everyone who spoke told their stories and how they got to where they are today, and that’s with PASSHE. They not only spoke about attending a Pa. school but also working in Pa. post-graduation.
A great example of someone who attended KU and stayed in Pa. post-graduation is Brandyn A. Hamilton. He didn’t attend the rally but he happened to be in the capitol building, where he is five days a week.
Hamilton is a Research Analyst in the Legislative Policy and Research Office with Democratic Caucus under the House of Representatives for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He’s held this position for about a year and he received the position soon after graduating from KU.
Hamilton studied Public Administration at KU and graduated in May 2017. While attending KU, Hamilton got involved in EAE, Pres IFC and Americans for Liberty.
He completed The Harrisburg Internship Semester (THIS) in his last semester at KU. The internship is what ultimately brought him to the job he has today. He never really expected to be working in the state capitol building when he first started at KU.
“It was Dr. Holoviak that helped me to get the internship”, said Hamilton. Holoviak was one of the advisors that guided him through the internship. Hamilton said Dr. Holoviak brought the internship to his attention.
It wasn’t just Dr.Holoviak that impacted Hamilton’s time at KU, but Dr. Portada. Portada was one of Hamilton’s political science professors that truly prepared him for the real world. Hamilton said, “The assignment for Portada’s class gave me the skills I use every day in the office.”
Hamilton mentioned how grateful he is to have a job he really didn’t think he would have. “There’s a lot I didn’t expect post-grad,” said Hamilton. He originally didn’t plan or think about working in the state capitol building. He said, “I always looked at it as a long-shot.”
When asked about advice for future graduates, Hamilton said, “It’s cliché, but follow your passions and take chances.”
Attending the PASSHE rally, sharing my story as a student at KU and hearing others stories was a great experience.