For the first time, SPS student leaders joined with representatives of several AIP Member Societies for the annual Science Engineering Technology Congressional Visits Days (SET CVD). A joint project between AIP Government Relations (GR) and SPS brought five students, all Associate Zone Councilors (AZCs) and SPS National Council members, to participate in SET CVD. Students arrived in time to join with members of AAS for a pre-SET CVD training that included insight into the processes involved in not only science policy but in general lawmaking. Training was coordinated by AIP GR staff members Jennifer Greenamoyer and Aline McNaull. A second day of orientation provided by the AAAS completed the preparation, with budget details to prepare students for their first event, a reception in the Rayburn House honoring the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology ranking member, Eddie Bernice Johnson.
The visits day began with an early breakfast with guest speaker Representative Rush Holt. When Dr. Holt was alerted that there were five physics students in the audience, one of them being from his district, he went directly to meet briefly with the students. Following the breakfast, the students split into two teams and made visits to House and Senate offices, each student having a minimum of two appointments as constituents. Students addressed Congress and Senate staffers to communicate the importance of science funding for research, the impact of that research on undergraduate science students, and the importance of fundamental research.
The success of this first-time effort to include SPS student leaders in the SET CVD initiative was obvious, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive response of House and Senate offices in scheduling visits with undergraduate science students and the laud received by these student leaders from their more seasoned visiting peers. Most importantly, the feedback and response of the students themselves at being given this opportunity to speak on behalf of undergraduate physics students around the country tells us that this was a great idea.