On March 2, 2023, NAFSA Vice President for Public Policy and Practice, Dr. Joanna Regulska presented Abby Conder Lussier, Ohio University with the 2023 Advocate of the Year Award at NAFSA’s virtual Day of Action. Below is an edited version of Dr. Regulska's remarks:
Our 2023 Advocate of the Year is a real go-getter who has consistently seized the opportunity to communicate the needs of the international students she serves to her campus leaders and her elected officials.
Her advocacy journey began in earnest in 2017, when she attended her first Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. She caught the bug immediately, returning in 2019 and then volunteering in January 2020 to be the lone advocate in a member-level meeting with her representative, a moderate Republican NAFSA had identified as an important champion of international education.
Her relationship with that office—before the congressman’s retirement—was very fruitful, yielding several supportive floor statements, co-sponsorship of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, and a "Dear Colleague" letter that he organized in support of international students during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On campus, she succeeded in encouraging her university president to advocate for Optional Practical Training with their members of Congress when the Trump administration was focused on dismantling it.
These actions led to her being recognized by her region with a special advocacy award in 2020.
More recently, she is pushing for policy changes in her state’s bureau of motor vehicles that would enable F and J visa holders to apply for a driver’s license during their grace periods, which they currently cannot, causing them undue stress and inconvenience. Our Advocate of the Year contacted NAFSA for advice, collaborated with peers in another state who are active on a similar issue, and attended state seminars to raise awareness of the issue.
Further, she used her institution’s civic engagement forum and a training for student affairs staff as opportunities to share NAFSA’s policy priorities and advocacy best practices.
She also fully believes that advocacy is not a solo pursuit. She volunteered for her region’s advocacy coordinator role last year and presented on NAFSA’s policy priorities during the pan-regional content at the Regional Summit in 2021, and again at a bi-regional conference last fall.
She was instrumental in securing funding for nine participants from her region to join this virtual Advocacy Day, designing and managing the application process herself and then organizing a “meet and greet” for those participants.
I hope by now you’ll agree that this year’s awardee is well deserving of this honor. It is my honor and privilege to present the 2023 Advocate of the Year award to Abby Conder Lussier.