As any professional knows, hard work gets you far, but networking gets you even farther. At a recent visit to the Capitol Building in Atlanta, my colleagues and I had the privilege to meet briefly with the Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, to celebrate the signing of the International Education Week Proclamation in our state. My colleagues and I, who serve on an advocacy subcommittee for the Georgia Association of International Educators, had just spent a jovial hour chatting over coffee and planning our subcommittee duties for the new year before we headed to the Capitol for our photo shoot with the Governor.

Upon entering the receiving room just off the governor's office, our group continued to joke and chat with the young staffers who were interning at the office, and I would like to think that we made a positive impression.

As soon as I got back to my office, I drafted thank you e-mails to everyone who helped in getting the proclamation signed and getting us in the door to meet with the Governor. I connected the Governor's priority of preparing competitive students to the role that international education has in doing just that. I am happy to say that in just a few days, we heard back from two of the three staffers to whom we sent thank you messages.

This experience reminded me about the importance of staffers in any office: that they are the eyes and ears of the politicians or whoever they may be serving. Making meaningful connections with staffers can help to ensure that our cause will continue to be supported.

As I move into the state-wide phase of my Connecting Our World Grassroots Leadership Program project, which focuses on state supported scholarships for study abroad, I am more conscious of fostering these relationships and am looking forward to continuing to build a community of support in our state.

Rebecca Bacon is a NAFSA member, trainee in the Connecting Our World Grassroots Leadership Program, and advocacy subcommittee member of the Georgia Association of International Educators. She coordinates the undergraduate degree-designation program, the International Plan, at Georgia Institute of Technology, which focuses on developing students’ understanding of how their discipline is practiced in an international context and enhancing their ability to function effectively in multicultural environments.