Albrecht testifies before state congressional committee

By Jackson Olsen
Hard News Cafe, Utah State University
February 9, 2009

Utah State University President Stan Albrecht went before the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee to deliver a presentation and testimony on the value of higher education and of the research currently being done at USU.

The committee, chaired by state Sen. John L. Valentine (R–Orem) and made up of members of both bodies of the Legislature, also heard from representatives from Weber State, Snow College and the College of Eastern Utah.

"Some of the research and development being done at our institution can and will change the world," Albrecht said in his testimony. "The proposed cuts could do irreparable damage to reverse all that."

The presentation focused on a number of different "value factors" offered by the university to the entire state community. Chief among these was the Space Dynamics Laboratory that, in addition to performing critical research in the field of space dynamics, has launched more experiments beyond the earth's atmosphere than any other university in the world.

According to Albrecht and Ned Weinshenker, USU's vice president for strategic ventures and economic development, another major component to USU's leading research portfolio is the production of oil extracted directly from algae. Professors and students at USU are currently developing and fine tuning the process to safely provide energy resources to the country without foreign assistance. This new method and technology for producing energy is gaining the attention of scientists and politicians across the country and around the world, Weinshenker said.

The legislators on the committee seemed equally impressed.

"This is just fascinating," said state Rep. Curt Webb (R–Hyrum). "What you guys have come up with is really exciting.

Joining Albrecht and his usual legislative entourage were the USU Student Lobbyists, a group of students participating in a lobbying internship offered by the department of political science. Each year students are lectured and instructed on lobbying techniques and principles. Then, once the state legislative session begins in January, the students put their knowledge to practice and actually lobby state legislators on behalf of Utah State University. The USU Student Lobbyists had 11 students in attendance, and were there primarily to support Albrecht's remarks.

"We just wanted to come down and let the legislature know that we care about our futures and the future of Utah," said Anna Harris, a sophomore majoring in political science. "They need to know it's not just the administration that cares about all this. It's the students."

In concluding his remarks, Albrecht urged the committee to use prudence and consider all of the implications of the currently proposed budget cuts. He again highlighted the recent achievements of Utah State and its students and faculty, this time not forgetting to mention the Aggies' top 25 men's basketball team.