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Daniel Maki
Professor of Mathematics

Hal Kibbey
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, July 25, 2006

IU students lobby Congress for National Science Foundation

July 25, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Talented students make fine lobbyists for higher education in Congress. In fact, they can accomplish some things that professional lobbyists probably can't, as three Indiana University undergraduates recently discovered. The students spent a day in Washington, D.C., meeting with staff members of Indiana senators and representatives in support of funding for the National Science Foundation.

"The students were wonderful, and they got the attention of the people we visited," said Daniel Maki, an emeritus professor of mathematics who accompanied them. The trip was sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America.

LAMP student lobbyists

IU students (from left) Ben Beranek, Edith Cespedes and Emily Crouch, with Professor Daniel Maki, spent a day in Washington, D.C., talking with the staffs of Indiana senators and representatives in support of funding for the National Science Foundation.

Benjamin Beranek, Edith Céspedes and Emily Crouch are IU Bloomington students from the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP), which enables liberal arts students to integrate any major from the College of Arts and Sciences with specialized training in business. The three students had taken a course taught by Maki titled "Analytical Decision Making," the prototype course for the IU system-wide program called "Mathematics Throughout the Curriculum."

"These students are not math majors but good students who have done something significant using math and statistics," Maki explained. Mathematics Throughout the Curriculum is partially supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, and Maki feels that these three students are effective examples of what NSF funding has accomplished at IU.

"I think that students can have an effect on legislators, because we can convey firsthand the effects of their policy-making decisions," said Céspedes, a senior from Chesterton, Ind., who is majoring in chemistry. "I think this effect can't be created by professional lobbyists, whom the legislators meet with daily. Students can serve as a reminder of who their constituents are. Having students meet with representatives should be an important part of the university's government relations effort, because the students are the people who feel the effects of the representatives' decisions.

"I would also like to add that this experience was incredible. I can't believe how much I learned in one day about the legislative process. The trip could not have been better," she said.

The group saw legislative aides for Sen. Richard Lugar, Sen. Evan Bayh, Rep. Mike Sodrel, Rep. Julia Carson, Rep. Mike Pence and Rep. Steve Buyer, Maki said. The meetings were arranged by Doug Wasitis, IU director of federal relations.

"Our mission was to show Congress the value of funding for the National Science Foundation, but it was also a great chance to talk about IU and LAMP," Maki added. "The students were wonderful. I would guess we walked about five miles that day, in shoes not intended for a five-mile hike."

About 30 such teams participated in the lobbying effort, Maki said, "but I think we were the only one with students." Some other universities represented were Harvard, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State.

"The National Science Foundation provided the funding for this course (Maki's "Analytical Decision Making") -- which integrates math with other disciplines in meaningful and practical ways -- and many others like it throughout the IU system," said Beranek, a philosophy major from Lafayette, Ind.

"We shared with the staff members of various senators and representatives the specific examples of our individual projects in efforts to highlight the value of NSF funding in general. In terms of industrial competitiveness and continued innovative scientific research, it's important that students learn not to be afraid of math and statistics," he added.

The students' presentations were well received, Beranek said.

"Many staff members remarked how the senator or representative loved to hear and share the stories of how NSF funding made a difference and especially love it when those are stories of things happening back home in Indiana," he said.

"I think it is vital for those deciding how our nation's funds are allocated to see concrete examples of how national funding has improved education," said Crouch, a senior from Washington, Ind., majoring in religious studies and Spanish. "We, as students, were able to give these top congressional aides an up-close look at what actually happens at universities in Indiana with the money they are allocating."

Crouch shared her project, in which she and her LAMP group worked with Jon E. Lewis of the Indiana State Department of Health, analyzing the statewide surveys that the department conducts each year in cooperation with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Dr. Lewis set two goals for us -- to find the segments of the population at an increased risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and obesity, and then to evaluate the impact of positive proactive behaviors on body mass index," Crouch said.

Such projects not only contribute to understanding health and human behavior. Student research projects that involve a real client make a great difference in student motivation, Crouch said. "Working with the knowledge that our results were significant to Dr. Lewis and the Department of Health pushed us to do our very best work."

To speak with Benjamin Beranek, Edith Céspedes, Emily Crouch or Daniel Maki, please contact Hal Kibbey at 812-855-0074 or