Mentorship program connects students with alumni, legislators

Lisa Dreher

Longhorn Advocates, a mentorship program through Student Government and Texas Exes, is urging students from all over the state to apply to represent the University in legislative work. 

The program connects students with alumni to try and resolve University conflicts, sometimes by changing University policies and procedures. Members are also connected with Texas senators from their hometown districts and partake in projects and events like the Texas Tribune Festival. Applications for the Longhorn Advocates program close tonight.

Ashley Alcantara, Plan II and government senior and one of the organizers for the program, said no background in government or public policy is necessary.

“The biggest thing is just bringing your experience of the University to the table and just talking about it,” Alcantara said.

Alcantara said she hopes students from all 31 districts in Texas join the program in order to show the government how serious students are about how their university functions.

“We just wanted to show [alumni and legislators] that Longhorns are all over the state and that UT issues are really important to constituents in all of these districts,” Alcantara said.

Mentees get free passes to the Texas Tribune Festival, a three-day event from Sept. 23–25 where they can meet with politicians and hear speakers examine social and political issues. 

“I think it’s a really good idea to get them exposed to state politics,” Alcantara said.

Last year, mentees Carolyn Soucie and Emily Burns researched on-campus sexual assault with their alumni mentor Tom Taylor and Texas State Sen. Don Huffines’ staff. Burns, a psychology junior, said she enjoyed the program because it made her more knowledgeable about how the University works with the government. 

“I really learned a lot about the University bureaucracy and how UT interacts with Texas legislation,” Burns said. “We had this awesome privilege to work with Texas Exes and the University administration to promote UT’s legislative goals.” Both Soucie and Burns also looked into the University’s programs to see what else could be done to improve how the University handles sexual assault. Soucie found the University provides adequate help for its victims, but fails to publicize such information to the student body in a simple way. 

“It seems like UT does have a good process of handling complaints made by sexual assault victims,” said Soucie, a Plan II and biochemistry junior. “I think the issue that was brought up a lot throughout this whole process was that the information isn’t really out there as well as it could be.”