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 Chancellor Birgeneau met with recent alums and current students during his visit to the UC Berkeley Washington Center last month. (David Roth photo)

Chancellor Birgeneau makes first official visit to D.C.
In pitch to legislators he stresses importance of funding for research, financial aid

| 09 November 2005

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was in Washington, D.C., recently for a series of meetings and events with members of Congress, Berkeley alumni, and current student interns in the Capitol. Birgeneau had been to Washington before, but this was his first official visit as chancellor.

Birgeneau's main goal in making this trip was to begin to establish a greater presence for the campus in the capital, which he did by connecting with both of California's senators and with most of the seven alumni currently serving in the House of Representatives. "Having a chance to sit down one-on-one with those policymakers is vitally important, because they can be some of the University's most powerful advocates in D.C.," said Kathleen Moazed, Berkeley's executive director of government affairs.

"It was wonderful to hear our alumni in Congress say how well Berkeley had prepared them for a career in public policy," Birgeneau said. "It is also important for the University to have these alumni in Congress who can speak about the school's mission and carry our message for us in the capital."

The chancellor's visit to Capitol Hill was timely because the Senate is now at a crucial stage in its reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the federal statute that funds financial aid. In his meetings with legislators, the chancellor pointed out that Berkeley educates a huge number of low-income students, and stressed the importance of keeping college affordable for them.

Birgeneau also laid out a case for more federal research dollars. Recent reductions in National Science Foundation funding, for example, have had a huge impact at Berkeley. The chancellor stressed the importance of research, noting how it translates into innovation, economic growth, and jobs for both the state and the nation.

Another highlight of the chancellor's trip was a small reception for about 30 current Berkeley students at the UC Berkeley Washington Center (UCDC). "The students I met are doing fantastic things, from interning on Capitol Hill to working for non-profits," Birgeneau said. "It makes me proud to see such a strong Berkeley presence in Washington."

The UCDC students were equally impressed by the chancellor. Aidan Ali-Sullivan, a fourth-year student who is interning for Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and working at the Urban Institute, said Birgeneau was very engaging and asked the students a lot of questions. "It was a nice, intimate experience to be able to meet the chancellor like that for the first time," Ali-Sullivan said.

The campus government affairs office also organized a well-attended reception for the chancellor on Capitol Hill, attended by some 200 alumni, students, and Congressional staffers.

Kris Cuaresma-Primm, who served as ASUC president in 2003-04, was struck by Birgeneau's passion for creating a diverse campus, saying, "His ability to be a champion of research in the hard sciences as well as a champion of diversity shows that those two things are not mutually exclusive."