Last week students and professionals met together in the Utah State Capitol for a day of mentoring and networking. BYUPAS Salt Lake Chapter hosted the event for BYU students, drawing in experts and professionals who help govern Utah.
The students began by touring the building, from the Governor’s ceremonial office filled with furniture made of trees uprooted by Utah’s 1999 tornado, to the operating house and senate chambers.
“I’m not a political science major, but seeing all of this is really cool,” said BYU student Lucas Farnsworth in front of the building’s Brigham Young statue. Following his graduation, Farnsworth hopes to attend medical school.
Following the tour, a panel addressed the students and took questions. The distinguished group included a journalist, legislative assistant, lawyer, state representative, and lobbyist, each of whom had unique perspective about local government.
Utah State Representative, Becky Edwards, spoke about the importance of diversity in government.
“It’s really important to have a variety of perspectives. As I’ve gone around the state, on occasion I hear a perspective on an issue and think ‘wow that really does not seem like… certainly this is not what the public thinks on this issue… it cannot possibly be!’” Edwards said about her experience as a representative. “But then you visit neighborhoods and you talk to people in different parts of your own district and you realize that the beauty of the system is that voices are so varied and so interested in the issues that it adds a robustness to the discussion. We make better policies when we listen.”
Kristen Olsen, the panel’s legal authority, also spoke about the value of diversity, but a diversity of work experience.
“I did a lot of study abroads, I worked abroad, and I basically just took any fun opportunity that came up. And if no fun opportunities came up, I created them. During my master’s program I developed a research project I could do in the West Bank in Jerusalem and I did it. And while all of these experiences definitely slowed me down, I don’t regret them at all because those experiences helped me get the most out of law school and my legal career.”
Students then had the opportunity to “speed-network” with their choice 10 of professionals in attendance.
“This was an invaluable experience in helping me decide what directions I will take in my life. Being able to talk to real-life experts and receive their advice influenced my decision making process greatly,” said BYU student, Matt Benson.
Another student, Thomas Richins said, “What once seemed impossible for me, is now very possible. I went into the Capitol with a desire to learn, but with little knowledge, and left the Capitol with a new sense of purpose. The most important thing I took away from this experience was a greater appreciation for government.”
Throughout the day, trusted community leaders came together to inspire a new band of college students, stated well by Rep. Edwards during her remarks.
“If I were to leave a plea or invitation with all of you it would be that public service is called public service for a reason: it is intended to be a wide range of people from the populace who decide for a season in their life they are going to serve the people of their community.”