UF celebrates grand opening of Washington D.C. office

UF officials celebrated the grand opening of the university's Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C.

Albert and Alberta made a trip to the nation’s capital to take vacation selfies and see the opening of UF’s new Office of Federal Relations.

This past week, university officials celebrated the grand opening of the office in Washington, D.C., said Mark Kaplan, the vice president of UF Government and Community Relations.

The office had been in the works for the past year, and staff started working in the office last Fall.

“It was a slow, gradual process,” Kaplan said.

The office will serve as a resource for students in D.C. and work to advocate for the university’s interests, said Sarah Mathias, the UF director of Federal Government Relations. Eventually, the office hopes to offer internships to UF students.

Specifically, it will monitor and analyze legislation under consideration and meet with policymakers, Mathias said. It will also keep an eye on federal programs that support students and research and strengthen the connections between researchers at UF and federal agencies.

“We’re the university’s eyes and ears and advocate in Washington,” she said.

The new office will cost UF $75,000 per year to rent and is located in the Hall of the States Office Building, near the U.S. Capitol Building, Mathias said. The building houses the Florida Governor Office as well as other universities’ federal offices, including UF President Kent Fuchs’ alma mater Cornell University.

The office space will host four full-time staff members and will have a small conference room, she said. The university is still hiring staff members for the office.

Thursday night, university officials, including Fuchs, celebrated in the capital with a reception on the rooftop of the office building, she said. At the celebration, they flew the UF flag on top of the building.

“We’re just a brand-new program,” she said. “Right now, we’re a friendly place to come, to see if we can help in any way.”

UF will work with other universities with offices in D.C. that may also be affected by the legislature, she said.

“We’re a member of many of the higher education associates,” she said. “What impacts UF students is likely to impact those at other big universities.”

At least four other Florida universities already have an office in D.C.

“We want to be a home away from home for students, faculty and alumni,” she said. “A place where Gators can come, get some Gatorade and share what we know.”