On March 5th, Professor of Practice Dr. Hadi Bozorgmanesh (B.S. Mechanical Engineering, ’70) and 10 students enrolled in the two-semester Experiential Technology Entrepreneurship I and II class spent the day meeting with local representatives, touring the legislative houses, and observing committee hearings on a variety of subjects. Read more about the Entrepreneurship class here.
Across the spring semester, the class has been focusing on experiential activities, such as job shadowing and meeting with members of the small business community as well as officials.
The objective of the trip to the halls of government, explains Dr. Bozorgmanesh, was to immerse the students in the day-to-day functioning of the state’s governing bodies so they can better understand how laws are reviewed, considered and voted upon. The student entrepreneurs are all small business owners or soon-to-be owners, and the field trip was calculated to provide them insights into how legislation affects the business community.
“Business leaders need to understand how to work with the state and federal governments. If your voice is to be heard, and your views represented, you need to speak up in governmental proceedings,” explains Dr. Bozorgmanesh. “Our students, be they the CEO of a startup business or regular citizens, need to see that they can make a difference.”
The group observed several committee sessions, including one concerning a proposed property tax exemption for citizens who install renewable energy sources, which is controversial for its potential impact on cities and towns that rely of property taxes as a source of funds for town services such as snow plowing and road maintenance.
M.S. candidate Matthew Cremins (Mechanical Engineering) lauded the visit to the Capitol, saying “It was an excellent opportunity to connect with State leaders, understand how they resolve civil issues, and discuss important topics related to entrepreneurship at UConn.”
The class also toured both the Connecticut House of Representatives and the Senate. A particular highlight was private meetings arranged with Senator Donald E. Williams, Jr., President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate (29th Sen. District), and Representative Gregory Haddad (54th District – Mansfield), who graciously shared their time and expertise with the group.
Ph.D. candidate Kevin Zmetra (Civil & Environmental Engineering) says, “I thought the experience was one that as engineers we don’t see too often. We are often so focused on the numbers we forget just how much politics plays into our daily lives, both in and out of our profession. It was nice to see that our elected officials are not only willing to take time out of their schedules to meet with us, but also that they seem genuinely interested and impressed in what we were doing in the class.”
The students had the opportunity to brief the legislators on their startup businesses, to learn more about Connecticut’s business climate and resources for innovators, and to ask questions.