On Monday, May 11, 2020, NAFSA’s Senior Director of Advocacy & Media Communications Rebecca Morgan presented Shannon Bedo of Houston Baptist University with the 2020 Advocate of the Year award. Typically presented as part of NAFSA’s annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.—which was necessarily canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic —Shannon was recognized at the NAFSA webinar, International Student and Scholar Advocacy in the Time of COVID-19.
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, Shannon Bedo, has demonstrated repeatedly the commitment, tenacity, and passion that exemplify an advocacy leader.
Shannon began her journey with attending a NAFSA Advocacy Day event, which she says truly changed her life. Since that time, Shannon has become a skilled advocate, who is adept at telling stories, making local connections, and diving into action whenever the need arises. Her immediate reaction when hearing news of a distressing policy is to begin formulating a plan to educate and enlist her members of Congress to help.
Shannon is also always well-prepared and highly organized. In a meeting about the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, Shannon will pull out Study Abroad stats and show the congressional staffer exactly how low their state study abroad participation rate is compared to other states. When talking about Optional Practical Training, she can describe in plain terms what the impact will be on international students if OPT is challenged.
It’s been said about her determination and impact: “She is tireless in her efforts, always encouraging, and takes on the roles of coach and leader.”
Addressing the webinar audience following her award announcement, Shannon shared tips for finding the time for advocacy during the stressful days of the coronavirus pandemic. She encouraged listeners to find a partner in advocacy for accountability purposes and to keep a specific advocacy-related task on a weekly to-do list. She also offered hopeful inspiration for the field, sending an optimistic message that, despite the challenges of the pandemic and the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies now swirling around Washington, we will emerge stronger from the challenges we have faced together.