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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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First D.C.-based lobbyist to represent UH System


D.C. lobbyist

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Last month, UH joined the ranks of many other educational institutions by hiring its first Washington D.C.-based lobbyist, Meagan Schneider.

Schneider, who will serve as UH’s government relations representative, has previous experience working with the University of Arizona, as well as serving as a legal aid on former Senator John McCain’s campaign team.

“Everyone hears the word lobbyist and it has this kind of dark, nasty connotation,” Schneider said. “But the truth is most organizations have a lobbyist. Every institution, every industry and most universities have some kind of representative here in D.C.”

Schneider said her job is to advocate on behalf of the University and its students with federal lawmakers. 

“That plays out in a lot of different ways, from ensuring research receives funding, to more student-focused stuff like increasing federal Pell Grants,” Schneider said. 

Politicians rely on people in the government relations role to provide the information and context needed for legislatures to understand how certain policies affect institutions such as UH, Schneider said. 

“It’s just not feasible to expect any one member of Congress, or their team, to understand every aspect of everything that they’re legislating on,” Schneider said. “They rely on members of their community to educate them on the work that they’re doing.”

While Schneider is just now getting established in D.C., she said she has been received well by Texas’ congressional delegation, as well as establishing good relations with Senator Cornyn.

Though her position is still in its infancy, Schneider has hit the ground running advocating on behalf of the University.

“Right now we’re gearing up for the end of fiscal year ‘21 and the beginning of fiscal year ‘22,” Schneider said. “One of (the) things the University wants to achieve for fiscal year ‘22 is funding for a study that would look into the effects of Hispanic Serving Institutions have on the graduation rate of Hispanic students in Ph.D. programs.”

UH, which was designated an HSI in 2012, set a goal to seek better ways to serve its Hispanic community, both in Houston and on Capitol Hill. 

This initiative is one of UH Chancellor Renu Khator’s top priorities going into the new fiscal year, Schneider said.

That isn’t all the University has in its sights for the near future, however, Schneider said another big goal of Khator’s is to see UH become a top 50 public institution. 

Though the new governmental relations representative is working solo, for now, Schneider said she would be open to looking into taking on some UH students as interns in the near future. 

“You know, when you’re looking at getting into this field, there really isn’t a lot of role models out there to help you along the path,” Schneider said. “A big part of what motivated me to take this position is the potential to work with students and help prepare them for what this kind of work really entails.” 

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