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From the Charles to the Potomac, Pitching BU’s Case

University leaders hold first-ever reception for Washington officials


Amid federal cuts to research funding and political science studies, President Robert A. Brown, Provost Jean Morrison, and other BU leaders met May 7 with Washington officials and hosted a first-ever reception for alumni working on Capitol Hill and for the federal government.

The University and other academic research institutions tried unsuccessfully to stop the research cuts—part of the automatic federal budget reductions known as the sequester. Different agencies now face different timetables for phasing in their parts of the sequester. Meanwhile, BU alumni in Congress and the government will have a say about future research funding.

“The innovation and enterprises that are created by research in our great universities is one of the major drivers of our economy,” Brown says. “Our goal is to engage members of Congress and key agency staff in conversations about how we might work together to ensure that the nation’s future is fully considered and protected in policies now being shaped in Washington. This goal is especially important when budgetary constraints are forcing hard choices in funding priorities.”

Last year BU established the Federal Relations office to raise the University’s profile in Washington. “A trip like this gives us the opportunity to thank our legislators for their support for federally funded research and student aid, as well as the opportunity to learn more about pressing national issues that BU researchers, students, and alumni can play a role in solving,” says Jennifer Grodsky, BU’s D.C.-based vice president for federal relations.

Joseph P. Kennedy III, Boston University BU reception for Washington DC governement officials and alumni

Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.) (from right) with Bhagyashree Chudasama (CAS’14), and Sofiya Mahdi (CAS’14).

Brown had a face-to-face meeting with John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and with Kei Koizumi (UNI’91), who works for Holdren as assistant director for federal research and development. Meanwhile, two House members are alumni: Representatives Niki Tsongas (LAW’88) (D-Mass.) and Lois Frankel (CAS’70) (D-Fla.). Frankel and Massachusetts Congressmen John Tierney, Joseph Kennedy III, and Michael Capuano (Hon.’09), all Democrats, were among the representatives who met with the BU delegation. Morrison also met with Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House’s Council on Women and Girls.

Additionally, the University invited major donors, trustees, and overseers to Tuesday’s reception, says Steven Hall, vice president for alumni relations. Scott Nichols, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, attended the event.

“We want members of Congress and their staffs, as well as members of agencies that are important to BU, to know that BU alumni are playing significant roles in D.C. and in the world,” says Hall. University leaders conveyed not just BU’s contributions in those arenas, he adds, but also the role that D.C.-area alumni can play “in advancing BU through their access and influence in the nation’s capital.”

“A handful of other universities do similar activities,” Grodsky says.

Brown has met before with members of Congress and administration officials in Washington, she says, but the Capitol Hill reception for BU friends and alumni was a first.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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