Advocating for students and research on a local and national level

Vidusha Devastali, director of foundation relations, and Betsy Boyd, AVP for federal affairs

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Betsy Boyd
Associate Vice President for Federal Affairs

How long have you worked at the UO?

20 years this month.

In your own words, what do you do?

I am the university's federal lobbyist. I represent the University of Oregon to the congressional delegation and work with other universities like the UO to coordinate advocacy strategies largely in support of student aid and research.

As the university's federal lobbyist, I'm not trying to interact with all 535 members of Congress. I typically work with the Oregon congressional delegation and would set up visits for faculty to meet with members of Congress in Washington D.C. or on campus. I also help with other projects that are trying to secure appropriations resources or make sure that regulatory action doesn't adversely affect the university. We often coordinate with colleagues from other schools as well as state and local government relations because there are lots of intersections between departments. 

What does your typical day look like?

Before the pandemic, I did not have a typical workday. Depending on where we're at in the budget cycle, I might travel to D.C. the first week of the month. I might make arrangements if I know that I'm going to have elected officials on campus at some point. My work on a monthly basis would involve some travel, setting up some campus visits, writing letters or memos or gathering information for congressional staffers or others, which could involve meeting with colleagues or participating in strategy calls.

Now that we're in a pandemic, I do have a typical workday. It involves a lot of Zoom meetings, and sometimes I will be collaborating with colleagues who are campus-based in a meeting that might normally have taken place in D.C. It's really increased my ability to connect with some colleagues.

What do you like about working at the UO?

I like the mission of supporting students and faculty who are really determined to help the future be brighter. I like the physical setting when we get to be on campus –  seeing people move down 13th Avenue, all the trees – especially the sense that there's a lot going on and that people are optimistic. And I like my coworkers. We are a group of dedicated people who are trying to do the right thing for the university and for students and faculty.

What keeps you motivated?

I believe that government can be a force for progressive change. Making an effort to secure resources so students have access to emergency CARES funds or appropriate student aid, or so faculty have research grants is positive for our future. I know that the elected officials in the Oregon delegation care about our future. Even though there are a lot of things like the pandemic that are a real threat to many people's health, well-being, or financial security, I still think that education is the foundation of our democracy and for progressive change.

Betsy Boyd, front center, was part of ASUO while an undergraduate student at the UOWhat is something people may not know about you?

I was able to go to graduate school for free, thanks to a University of Oregon professor who gave me good advice. When I was an undergraduate student,  political science professor Jim Klonoski asked me to stop by during his office hours and told me that I should apply for graduate school at the Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics. He told me that Oregon had a track record of sending good students there and would often offer students a tuition scholarship or a stipend for living expenses. I took his advice. I applied to the Eagleton Institute of Politics and planned to go there after I worked in the legislature. One year after I graduated, I got a full-ride scholarship plus a substantial stipend to attend Rutgers University, which was a fabulous experience. I would have not known about it if a faculty member had not reached out to me and taken an interest in my future. I really appreciate when people take time to see who's around them and see how they can help.  

Another thing people might not know about me is that my parents met at the University of Oregon, my daughter is a senior at the UO, and I met my spouse at the University of Oregon when I did student government. My father was editor of The Emerald, and my mother was also on the Emerald news staff. I used to keep a picture at my office at the Ford Alumni Center of me as a part of ASUO, because it's a good reminder of how much impact students can have in their own communities.

Betsy Boyd is a part of Government and Community Relations

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