We Can Relate

Penn State’s Office of Government and Community Relations makes the case for equal funding for the university.

photo of students on capitol steps during a trip to Harrisburg to advocate for increased state funding, photo by Penn State News


Michael Stefan learned early in his career in advocacy and government relations the value of sticking to a message. “I had a conversation the other day with a legislative staffer who said, ‘We know Penn State is underfunded compared to your peers.’ That’s probably the first time I’ve had someone say that to me,” Stefan says. “That shows our message is sinking in.”

Reinforcing that message, with the goal of securing greater state support, is the primary focus of Stefan ’07 Bus, Penn State’s vice president for government and community relations, and his team. He views the office’s work as a “give-and-take” between Penn State and legislators, sharing the university’s goals and highlighting its educational and economic value in Pennsylvania and beyond, and bringing back insights from government on common goals.

Penn State’s global impact is a focal point in that messaging. “President Bendapudi talks about the ripple effect, part of our land-grant mission, that you create waves from our campuses with novel research, and those waves extend through the immediate communities, throughout the state and around the world,” Stefan says. “At each of those levels, there are folks in government who can see the impact of that work.”

The office also oversees the Advocate Penn State network, which helps alumni, students, and friends make the case for state support. “It’s a critical part of our work—it demonstrates that Penn State is a priority for voters, and officials are responsive to that,” he says. “We talk about the value of a degree, our successes as an institution, but those stories really carry the message of why Penn State deserves to be equally funded. Our job is to brag about Penn State, and we appreciate it when others brag about Penn State as well.”