The UA Voice in D.C.

Nov. 1, 2011

As the federal lobbyist for the University, Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Shay Stautz works with lawmakers and government officials at the national level to ensure they understand how important the work being done here is, not only to the academic community, but to the community at large. He makes the case to policymakers that the University is a true national asset, providing expertise to the nation in everything from space to the humanities.

“I started out as a University of Arizona student. During my second year I went to Washington to work for Mo Udall, who was a longtime legendary representative from here in Southern Arizona,” he says of his history with the UA. “I started as an intern for Mo. He then kept me on as his defense aide, and I became so interested in the process that I stayed on in Washington by working for United States Sen. Bob Kasten as his defense aide.”

Stautz completed his two degrees at Georgetown University in government and US national security. By the time he finished in 1995, Senator Kasten had been voted out of office, so he then began lobbying for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and later worked as a contract lobbyist for education and high technology associations, as well as defense companies.

Today, he is using his defense subject expertise to position the UA as a stronger presence in defense and homeland security, including through the development of a campus-wide defense institute.

Though there are many different ways in which a person becomes a lobbyist, he says his version is fairly common in that a person spends time on Capitol Hill or working in the executive branch, picking up a specialized understanding of federal relations and the issues areas, and then applies that knowledge in the public or private sector.

“We're the interface between the University as an institution and the federal government. And that includes all three branches of the federal government, but our most interactive engagement is with Congress.”

Connected to the UA Family

Stautz’s connections to the University run deep. His sister, Shari, currently works in Campus Health, and his mother, Nancy, worked in Student Life as a senior advisor for upwards of twenty years.

And his wife, who happens also to carry the name Shae (note: different spelling, same pronunciation), works in the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

In Front of the Issues

As the chief federal lobbyist for the UA, Stautz spends his time and energy getting out in front of the most pressing issues that affect the University.

For example, as the federal government works to lower its budget deficit, which is in excess of a trillion dollars a year, Congress and the executive branch are negotiating to figure out which expenditures on which programs can be reduced and/or cut. This is where Stautz’s role becomes essential.

“The University has been engaged both individually as an institution, but also with our national associations to make sure that some of those key University and university-community priorities are recognized in those negotiations.”

For example, over 9,000 students receive assistance in the form of needs-based Federal Pell Grants, which represent the make-or-break difference that allows them to go to college. One of Stautz’s priorities is to work with policy-makers to ensure that the Pell program is funded and that those grants continue to be available.

“Last year we were ranked 16th in the country amongst public universities for our research contract awards from the federal government, in the rough range of about $600 million,” he says of another example of the work that comes across his desk. “So the federal funding agencies that fund those awards are key priorities for us.”

Leadership in Space Science

While the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy are essential federal funding agencies to the University, a key priority is the NASA space science research account.

“In any given year, we are always a major player in the area of space science,” Stautz says.

The University of Arizona has played key roles in missions such as the Mars Phoenix Lander, the Hubble Space Telescope, the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, and just awarded in 2011, the $800 million-plus OSIRIS-REx mission to sample asteroid 1999 RQ36.

In addition to critical science these missions produce, they are also strong contributors to the economy.

“Part of my task on programs like this is to make sure that our members of Congress know the import of these programs to us and the impact on the University and on Arizona,” he says, and that is no understatement. The OSIRIS-REx mission alone is expected to infuse over $200 million into the local economy, along with high-skilled jobs and a stellar high-tech reputation for Tucson.

Raising Your Voice in D.C.

Beyond addressing specific legislation of UA funding priorities, Stautz also works to bring federal officials to the University.

“They need to see our expertise and struggles here first-hand. I encourage anyone who wants to invite a federal official to campus to come see us.”

Unbeknownst to many people on campus, there are requirements for federal lobbying reporting that everyone should follow. If you’re engaged in those processes, this memo from Stautz and this document about the UA Lobbying Disclosure Act are great ways to learn about the requirements for federal lobbying.

No one on campus ever need think they have to brave the waters of Washington D.C. alone. Any time any UA faculty or staff member goes to D.C., meets with senior federal officials or members of Congress, or just writes a letter to express their opinion, “that’s when we should be involved,” says Stautz. “Our job is to make sure that the University’s voice is heard.”