Getting non-partisan student engagement is always a large task, but the Department of Student Engagement at Chapman University has risen to the challenge.
A non-partisan team of student workers within civic engagement are charged with running the get-out-the-vote effort. From social media campaigns to political debates, the Voter Engagement Team wants the entire Chapman community to know that regardless of party or stance on issues, all are welcome to join the conversation.
The group of five along with the entire Civic Engagement Initiatives Team are the driving force behind a wide range of get-out-the-vote initiatives that are gearing students up to vote in the March 3 primary election.
Getting Out the Vote
A genuine respect for all perspectives coupled with deliberate voter engagement strategy continues to mobilize students across campus. For Hanna Marcus ’21, the student Voter Engagement lead, the goal is to offer resources for everybody.
“Politics can get a little intimidating for students who are not well versed politically, so we’ve worked hard to make our events welcoming despite the fact that we’re talking about serious topics and despite the politically heated climate. We don’t want to intimidate people. We want to inspire civic engagement for all,” says Marcus.
Something for Everyone
Where they see voter awareness issues, Marcus and her team step in to inform and empower. For those who are intimidated by politics, the Voter Engagement Team provides straightforward resources that provide straightforward answers. Their voting guide FAQs are customized for different audience needs. If you’re an out-of-state student and don’t know how to vote, the Voter Engagement Team has a form for you. If you don’t know whether you’re registered to vote, they can help you, too.
Those who are politically inclined, can attend numerous events that offer a platform to express their voice. “The Life of the Party” event, for example, invites various political groups on campus to come together and voice their stance on ten hot-button topics. It’s neither a panel nor a debate. Rather, it’s an exercise in and a celebration of democratic participation.
This personalized approach to students’ individual political journey has seen great results. In 2018, Chapman’s midterm voting rate increased to 44.2% from 14.7% in the 2014 midterm election cycle. It’s no surprise, then, that Chapman University has twice been named a “Voter-Friendly Campus” by the national nonpartisan groups Campus Vote Project (CVP) and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
For Marcus, it’s an honor that carries a lot of weight. “Chapman students juggle so many things at once and at the end of the day we’re passionate people who care and want to make a global impact. We want everyone to have a voice, and we value everyone’s voice. It makes me really proud to be a Chapman student and the award speaks to how supportive the Chapman culture is. It shows we’re making an impact and we’re reaching standards that are recognizable and award-worthy,” Marcus says.
With the primaries coming up, the energy is high, and the Voter Engagement Team continues to double down on their efforts. To date, one of the biggest accomplishments for the Department of Student Engagement is getting an on-campus vote center approved. Marcus anticipates that the convenience of having a vote center on campus will incentivize busy students.
They’re also taking their resources to the classroom. With the help of faculty who have gladly opened their doors, the Voter Engagement Team hopes to give as many Classroom Lightning Talks as possible. It’s one of many initiatives that aims to provide students with comprehensible voter information in order to garner informed voter participation.
Behind all their efforts one guiding principle emerges: building up lifelong global citizens. Marcus says that by role-modeling non-partisan participation, the Voter Engagement Team hopes to inspire the campus community to be catalysts for civic impact.
Energized and with some work still left to do, the Voter Engagement Team enters into election season optimistic: “We hit that 44.2% which was a huge jump but we’re not stopping there,” says Marcus. “We want to make it 100%; that’s the ultimate goal. We want to make sure voting is a positive and empowering experience for all students at Chapman.”