Director of Communications
For Immediate Release
Dec. 12, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO—A chief of staff who worked to pass legislation to cover tuition gaps for former foster youth and a master tactician who instituted a university-wide legislative agenda for his institution's four campuses are recipients of the 2013 Service Awards in State Government Relations.
Bridget Burns, chief of staff with the Oregon University System who currently serves as an American Council on Education Fellow at Arizona State University, is the recipient of the Edwin Crawford Award for Innovation. Ron Withem, senior associate vice president and director of governmental relations with the University of Nebraska, is the recipient of the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Achievement Award.
Both will be honored today during an awards luncheon at the 2013 Higher Education Government Relations Conference in San Francisco.
The two awards are given annually for leadership in state relations and institutional advocacy. They are the only national awards in higher education state relations, a field that encompasses advocacy and outreach efforts on behalf of colleges and universities to governors, state legislators and other key policymakers.
The awards are administered by the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Burns served as chief of staff for the Oregon University System where she provided leadership to the government relations division, oversaw state contract lobbyists and coordinated campus government relations staff from all OUS campuses. In her current role as an American Council on Education Fellow, Burns is under the mentorship of Arizona State University President Michael Crow learning about transformational change and university innovation.
Key initiatives during the past three years include:
In his letter of recommendation, Rep. Michael E. Dembrow, chair of the Oregon House Committee on Higher Education, noted Burns "crucial work" on governance legislative that could impact higher education institutions, including the Oregon University System.
He wrote: "(Her) goal was not to protect and preserve individual institutions or the system in its current form—but rather to come up with a model that would best serve students."
Withem has served in his current position with the University of Nebraska since 1997. Previously, he served in the Nebraska state legislature for 13 years where he chaired the education committee from 1987 to 1994.
According to University of Nebraska President James Milliken, Withem's service in the legislature as well as his earlier career as a classroom teacher, have contributed to his "deep understanding of education policy."
During his tenure with the University of Nebraska, Withem has built key relationships with state representatives and secured significant state funding increases. Other key initiatives for his institution include:
The Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Award, named for the former director of state government relations at the universities of Arizona and New Mexico, comes with a crystal award. The Edwin Crawford Award, named to honor the 40-plus years of state government relations work by Edwin Crawford, a former director of public affairs and state relations at CASE, Auburn University, the University of Virginia, Ohio State University and the University of California System, also comes with a crystal award.
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To fulfill their missions and to meet both individual and societal needs, colleges, universities and independent schools rely on—and therefore must foster—the good will, active involvement, informed advocacy and enduring support of alumni, donors, prospective students, parents, government officials, community leaders, corporate executives, foundation officers and other external constituencies.
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