Andy Clark

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Government Relations, State of Maryland University System


When did you attend the UO and what year did you graduate? What did you study at the UO?

I studied political science and graduated in 1990, I started in 1986. I served as ASUO President in 1989-90.

What class that inspired you in a new way while at UO?

It was my second class of my first day at the U of O. I sat down for Political Science 201: American Government with Professor Jim Klonoski. The class was memorable in a number of different ways. As a lecturer, Professor Klonoski was always so at ease with the class and so confident in his knowledge and his experience in the American political system on all levels, all branches of government. But what impressed me more is that he handed out the final exam question on the first day of class. I thought to myself, “This class was going to be a cake walk.” But the question that he handed out molded my own sense of how to approach politics. That question that was at the top of the page of the final exam that we received on the first day so that we would be prepared for the final on the last day of class. The question was, and I’m going to paraphrase, “How can Americans gain, regain, and/or maintain control of their government in politics?” Underneath that question was a list of entities; the media, corporations, unions, ideas of federalism, polyarchy, the Constitution, the Supreme Court, money, the presidency, civil rights. For the final we had to explain and measure the influence those groups used to put pressure on the American system of government.

It’s not unlike what I do now, because I can’t look at an issue as a higher education lobbyist without thinking of this list of influences. I have to deal with the media; I have to deal with the consequence of elections; I have to deal with folks who are middle class and want to send their kids to school, so we talk about affordability and accessibility; we have to talk about the presidency, because the presidency sets the tone of the Executive branch, and the Executive affects the tone, especially with the Department of Education, what we do and how we do it. So, in a lot of ways, Professor Klonoski really set the true north for me in the way that I visualize a political environment.

What experience offered by UO that opened your eyes to something new (i.e. a passion, a culture, a perspective, etc.)?

I grew up in Marin County just north of San Francisco, and between growing up with family and friends throughout the Bay Area, there’s not a whole lot you don’t see when it comes to something new, a culture, or a perspective. I had the Chinese New Year’s Parade and the Gay Pride Parade when I was a kid. At the UO I met kids from Roseburg and Grants Pass and Medford. To this day I have an appreciation there for what I learned about kids that were growing up in rural communities and then coming to the UO. And for them, the U of O blew their mind, it totally blew their mind. Just the culture, the people, and even back in 1986, the diversity of it all.

I use this greater appreciation today, because I represent institutions and students in rural areas of Maryland as well as in urban areas. While the Internet may make this less so than when I was at the UO, there are still some students from rural communities who many not have the ability to travel far from home or go to college in an urban setting. I learned at the UO that the overall experience is what a student makes of it, whether going to the UO or a local community college or regional university.

What was the number one skill you believe you acquired while at UO?

Through my experiences with the Counsel for Minority Education, student leadership and as an RA, I learned that being an active learner and an active listener was really important. It was important to learn not to talk over people, and it was even more important not to talk under people. I got more out of listening to my peers on a myriad of different topics than talking.

Share three words that describe what you like most about the UO today.

Liberal: When I think of the word “liberal,” I’m thinking of compassion, forward-thinking, understanding, taking into consideration underrepresented groups. I think through the years the UO has done a remarkable job for setting the table for many groups to be heard. I think over the years the UO has been consistently liberal in the best sense; it doesn’t mean that it’s anti-conservative because there are conservative folks at the UO, but that it remains a forward-thinking institution.

Unconventional: I think university, student and faculty leadership allow for student creativity and an openness to approaching academics in a different way. For instance, as a political science major I was able to take a 300 level medieval Spanish literature class. I think that sometimes students feel like they are in a box heading towards their degree and they can’t stray, but at the UO students can explore and take classes outside of their degree requirements.

Beauty: the simple natural beauty of the campus and community. A drizzly fall day is one of my favorite days in Eugene. My other favorite is a blazing hot July summer day. I can go to the beach or head to the mountains.

What is your present or past career/occupation?

I am the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Government Relations for the 12-campus University System of the state of Maryland. I previously worked as legislative aide to Oregon State Representative Jim Edmunson, a Capitol Hill aide to Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, and state and federal government relations director for the former Oregon University System. I’ve also worked as a contract lobbyist for a number of non-profit trade and educational associations.

How did your time at the UO impact your current experiences/successes?

What I’m doing today is really a direct extension of my time the University of Oregon. If it wasn’t for the UO, I wouldn’t have worked with Jim Edmunson in the legislature; if not for Jim Edmunson, and Jim’s UO ties, I wouldn’t have gone to work for Peter DeFazio; if not for DeFazio, I wouldn’t have gotten a job with Grattan Kerans, who was a former state senator of Eugene; if it wasn’t for Grattan, I would have never come back to work as an associate lobbyist in Salem; and had I not come back to work for Grattan, Governor Kitzhaber, and Joe Cox, the chancellor at the time, would have never sent me back to Washington D.C. for seven years to help open the state of Oregon office, which was the first state of Oregon office in D.C. So it’s been a snowball effect for me with what I’m doing right now; what I’m doing right now is directly connected to my days at the UO.

I also served six years on the UOAA board. I was proud to serve on the alumni board. It was great to serve with so many people from across the country and even the world; one alumni board member would even fly in from Sydney, Australia. And another thing that I appreciated about the alumni board is that many of my fellow students in the late 80’s and early 90’s have served on the alumni board. So a lot of us have all wound up doing amazing things and then circled back to serve on the alumni board. So I really appreciated the time, appreciated the alumni association and the personnel and people involved with herding all those alumni together on a quarterly basis to talk about the University and talk up the University.

What does the word “advocacy” mean to you?

Advocacy is a consistent, fact-based application of data and demographics which affect a positive outcome for any project, for any program, or any person. That’s how I define advocacy, as compared to activism or lobbying. You don’t get everything you want in one bite as an advocate, but it’s the long-term application of data and facts to move the ball on a budget, on access and affordability, on something important to the university.

What advice would you give people advocating for the UO about being an effective advocate?

I have three pieces of advice, and I use these not only as an advocate but as a lobbyist as well.

[1] Know your audience… know that you’re talking to a legislator. Know where that legislator sits in the universe as it’s related to your budget; know where that legislator sits in the universe regarding his or her loyalty to an institution of higher education. In Salem you’re going have 30 legislators who love the Ducks, 30 legislators who love the Beavers, 15 legislators who love Portland State, and 15 people that don’t care either way. It’s important to know from where legislators graduated, and especially if they are UO graduates.

[2] Be clear and concise in words and in writing. When you do an advocacy event like UO Day at the Capitol and you’re setting up appointments with legislators, sometime you have to pull them off the floor, sometimes you get to sit down, and sometimes you might be talking to staff – but be clear and concise, because if you do have to talk to staff, you want to make sure that the staff can relay whatever an advocate has to say accurately back to their boss.

Lead the listener with an assignment or an invitation. That assignment can be “Senator, we’d really like to get a note from you that we can take back to the University just acknowledging that we had a chance to meet. Maybe some light thoughts on what your view, in a larger sense, of what higher education is, given all the competing demands, what space is there to do more for public higher education in Oregon? And not just for the University of Oregon, but ‘how can we bake a bigger pie’ that is helpful to public higher education across the state.” And then the most important part of that is to tell the legislator or the listener, “by the way, I’m going to follow up in two weeks.” And then follow through on the follow-up. And just say “it might not personally be with you, but I’d like to follow up with your staff in two weeks to see where we are and what more we can provide to help.” That’s just a thing I do, because sometimes legislators don’t leave you enough space to talk. They already have it in their mind what they think, and I think it’s not to put a legislator off-balance, as you allow a legislator to talk and you’re listening and being an active listener, to come back with an assignment, it allows him to take a breath, number one; but it also allows you to get a second bite at the apple that’s creating that consistency.

What is something you wish people knew about the advocacy process?

It’s okay to miss making your point. It’s okay to flub information; because you can always go back and make a correction. In the advocacy process, you don’t need an answer for everything. The three strongest words that I know in my lobbying world are “I. Don’t. Know.” But the next words are even more important: “I will get back to you with that information.”

Share an example or two of a time you felt successful advocating for something important to you.

Here’s an example from March of 1990. I was ASUO student body president at the time. Out in the West University neighborhood area it’s spring; the weather warms up, the house parties commence, the kegs come out. A riot breaks out; full on bottle-throwing, rock-throwing, dumpster turning, sofas in the middle of the street being lit on fire, Eugene police officers in the street being pelted with bottles…a real bad scene. Bad for the University of Oregon, bad for the town/gown relationship. It was a riot about nothing. It was a melee that did not have to happen.

ASUO colleagues and I sat down with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the Eugene Police Department, representatives from the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils, and a handful of other folks. I knew we needed to prevent this from happening again. So I got a beeper to receive calls about house party disturbances on the weekend – this was back in the day of pagers – and I felt like I was on weekend duty again from previous years when I was an RA. So my pager would go off, I would call a contact at the Eugene Police Department, and I would hear “Andy, there’s a loud party at 14th and Patterson, can you walk over?” This was an activity that went on for about three weeks. I think on my first patrol I took (then UO President) Myles Brand, and he also saw first-hand what the community was up against. I would walk into some of these parties and find the sponsor of the party. And I wasn’t playing the narc at all; I would check in with the people living in the home that were hosting the party and say, “look, you’ve had two noise complaints here so far, the police have already been here to ask you to shut this down, and they’re not gonna ask a third time.” I encouraged my fellow students to not show ourselves this way to the university community; let’s show some responsibility and consideration for friends and neighbors.

I don’t want to say it was wildly successful, but we did not have another riot for the rest of that term. I know it’s a low bar, “at least we didn’t have a riot,” but at the time, during that first riot at which law enforcement deployed tear gas, that was a significant improvement.

After the end of the school year I got a letter - I think I still have it - from the provost at the time, Norm Wessels. He was complimentary of what we did to help turn the heat down amongst that West Neighborhood student community and work with the police and the OLCC as well as help as well as help students understand there is a way in which to be a neighbor that are much better than we had shown on that day in late March.

Anything else you’d like to add?

When you’re talking about advocacy, if you draw three concentric circles, what you’d write in that first circle is “purpose,” you’d write in the second circle is “policy,” and in the third part of that circle you’d write “politics.” Regarding being a UO Advocate, you want to have a purpose for why you’re advocating, and it’s important for that purpose to be righteous and not self-righteous, because often times an advocacy effort can get wrapped up in a handful of individuals who want a crusade. But it doesn’t have to be self-righteous, it has to be righteous. And it should be in the furtherance of affordability, of creating a more open, diverse campus climate, and of helping legislators and public policy makers understand the value of public higher education across the state.