On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, NAFSA President and Chair of the Board Ravi Shankar presented Nora Cavazos of The University of Texas Medical Branch with the 2019 Advocate of the Year award at NAFSA’s annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.
The Advocate of the Year award recognizes a member of the NAFSA community who embodies the spirit of advocacy and serves as an inspiration to others to make a difference by engaging elected officials in advocacy discussions. This year’s Advocate of the Year, Nora Cavazos, has demonstrated time and time again the commitment, tenacity, and passion that strengthen her work as an advocacy leader.
For her first Advocacy Day four years ago she arrived in Washington, D.C. armed with binders of research about where her members of Congress stood on each issue. Since that first experience, Nora has played a pivotal role in unifying NAFSA members on the local and regional level. She has spoken at numerous conferences and meetings to encourage NAFSA members to participate in advocacy and collaborated with NAFSA staff on multiple posters and presentations on advocacy.
In the fall of 2019, NAFSA invited Nora to come to DC with former international student Dr. Nanshu Lu to meet with their members of Congress as part of NAFSA’s Welcome to Succeed campaign. Once again, Nora came prepared with relevant data and statistics for each office and demonstrated her advocacy experience as she skillfully led the policy section of each meeting and set the stage for Dr. Lu to share her story.
Addressing Advocacy Day participants in Washington, D.C., Nora shared lessons she learned organizing local advocacy events in Houston with another Texas advocate: “Don’t for a minute think that what you’re doing doesn’t matter because you may be the first of your kind to hand them information that they’ve never heard before…we are the sole educators to our congressional representatives when it comes to international students, scholars, and employees.”
As NAFSA moves forward with the Welcome to Succeed campaign, Nora has helped spread the word on the new initiative, participating in conference calls and sharing local news articles with NAFSA staff to use to educate policymakers.
In all of her efforts, Nora has maintained an unwavering drive that is truly unparalleled. Always dedicated, she continues to look for new avenues of support for international education. After starting a new position at The University of Texas Medical Branch this past year, she immediately set to establish a relationship with her federal relations officer, and has been able to make her office, the Office of International Affairs, the “go-to source” on immigration policy.
Through her example and tireless work, more international education professionals are equipped with the tools that allow them to be everyday advocates and propel us closer to our goal.