Talking to policymakers is part of the Wisconsin Idea

Testifying at a legislative hearing can be a little intimidating, Sue Nitzke admits.

“You’re sitting at a table facing members of the committee who are sitting in a row up on a stage. The Wisconsin Eye camera is there recording everything,” says Nitzke, professor and chair of the nutritional sciences department and chair of the WI PAN, the Wisconsin Partnership for Activity and Nutrition.

On March 25 Nitzke testified a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Education on SB-313, legislation intended to improves the nutritional value of foods sold in schools through vending machines, concessions, etc., and fitness assessment.

When you testify on legislation you’re asked to say whether you’re for the bill, against it, or speaking for educational purposes. Nitzke put herself in the latter category.

“I felt it was my duty to give them information as to why this is an important bill,” she says.

Ben Miller wishes more UW faculty and staff experts would share their expertise in these legislative venues.

“It is consistent with the Wisconsin idea, that the boundaries of the campus are the boundaries of the state, says Miller, who has overseen CALS legislative relations for the past five years and will now be serving a similar role at the campus level.

“A lot of the research that we’re doing is helpful to our partners in the state legislature as they set out to make policy about complicated issues,” Miller points out. “There are always people who are ready and willing to inform public policy related to the areas of science that we study. If the information doesn’t come from us, it may not be as well-informed. That is not in our best interests or the interests of the state.”

Providing expertise to the legislature is also a good way to demonstrate that the knowledge that gets discovered on campus has real value to taxpayers, he adds.

Although things were a bit hectic at the Capitol last week, the senators were respectful and seemed glad to hear what Nitzke had to say.

“It was a busy time for the senators. They are very hurried because they are trying to get a lot of things done before their break. There was a lot of coming and going. But most of them were there when I spoke. They paid attention and asked intelligent questions,” she says.

Would she do it again? Definitely.

“I am glad I did this. I really meant it when I said at the beginning of my testimony that I appreciated the opportunity,” she says.

Here’s a copy of the testimony that Nitzke presented.