Magazine Reflections

In Advance of the 2024 Elections . . .

How are you or your campus encouraging students to get involved in civic activities?

Spring 2024

The first-year student seminar I teach uses the Perspectives program from the Constructive Dialogue Institute. This program equips students with the practical skills to effectively engage across political differences, such as active listening and tools for productive and respectful debates. They practice curiosity by asking questions that help them learn about others’ perspectives. Ultimately, I hope they’ll understand their own position better by trying to see it from someone else’s point of view.

—David Supp-Montgomerie, University of Iowa

The University of Tampa is partnering with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and the university’s First-Year Studies Office to launch its SpartansVote! initiative in fall 2024 to encourage first-year students to register and vote. The initiative includes a critical thinking assignment with modules on why voting matters and how to register to vote. Our community partner, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, will visit campus to help students who want to register to vote in Florida. We’ll also provide guidance on how students can request an absentee ballot from their home state. More than 50 percent of our students are from a state other than Florida.

—Mary R. Anderson, University of Tampa

I do two things in my University 101 sections to encourage civic participation. The first is a semester-long project with four categories of activities to do in the community. Students earn points for each activity they complete. Students receive a high number of points for first registering to vote and then actually voting. The second is a combined lesson plan on media literacy, examining sample ballots, and instructions on how to look up and compare the viewpoints of candidates on websites like Vote411.

—Melissa Gilbert, University of South Carolina

The freshman seminar I plan includes a civic leadership project. It begins with a discussion about students’ identities and how we can find commonalities across differences. Next, we focus on approaching community service through an asset-based perspective that emphasizes students’ strengths. For instance, we would encourage a gregarious student to choose a setting with high levels of social interaction. Then students walk through a gallery of posters with images and descriptions of curated civic engagement opportunities. Each student selects an opportunity at an organization and volunteers there for two to four hours over the next two months. Students later reflect on their experiences at a symposium.

—Clear Moore, Mississippi University for Women

In my first-year seminar, BioInquiry, I discuss why it is important for STEM students to register to vote and explain how to request an absentee ballot if necessary. Using QR codes embedded in lecture slides, I guide students through the steps to check and update their voter registration status, find nearby polling locations and hours, preview ballots, and research candidates and issues. I learned how to facilitate these activities through a faculty training session led by Science Rising. This nonpartisan, nationwide organization seeks to increase STEM student voter participation and civic engagement.

—Kimberlee Mix, Loyola University New Orleans

In collaboration with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, Ball State developed its Cardinals Vote Information Campaign, a comprehensive initiative designed to empower our community with the knowledge and resources necessary for active civic participation. The campaign focuses on voter education, registration, and mobilization. We’ve also developed a Democracy Fellows Program, which helps students develop leadership skills, build meaningful connections, and engage with the community. Fellows create voter information campaigns and promote engaged citizenship on our campus. Ball State also plans to work with the US Election Assistance Commission to develop a Help America Vote College Program that will recruit high school and college students to work at polling locations on Election Day.

—David J. Roof, Ball State University

Illustration by Peter Arkle