A driving force behind UMSL’s commitment to the democratic process is the Civic Engagement Coalition, which was established to raise awareness of and participation in civic engagement activities.
Since 2018, the Excellence in Civic Engagement Award has honored individuals who go above and beyond to remain active in voting and other civic activities. This year, the Coalition recognized five members of the UMSL community: Anita Manion, assistant professor of political science; Blaine Milligan, office support specialist in the English and history departments; Charlie Gentry, social work major; Lucy Grimshaw, dual major in social work and public policy and administration; and Jasmin Williams, dual major in philosophy and political science.
As a political science instructor, Manion’s courses often cover current topics related to civic engagement, and her dedication to the democratic process carries outside the classroom as well. She promotes voter registration and awareness on campus and has organized events to watch political debates, track election results and discuss voting rights.
“Manion creates a classroom environment that welcomes all students, regardless of their background or political views,” said Professor David Kimball, who nominated Manion for the award.
Most recently, she worked to educate others on the importance of the 2020 Census and helped design an interdisciplinary course on voting and democracy.
Milligan’s devotion to civic engagement is equally strong. Prior to taking a position at UMSL, he served as a field organizer during Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 campaign. Since coming to UMSL, Milligan has assisted in creating a course on the history of the Electoral College and joined the Civic Engagement Coalition to further inspire political activism in the UMSL community.
Throughout the fall semester, he plans to participate in voter registration drives and become involved with local campaigns on the ballot in November.
Although the coalition has traditionally chosen one student award winner, three UMSL students were honored this year.
Gentry was selected due to his work with the Missouri chapter of Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing, a group dedicated to ending mass incarceration and discrimination against formerly incarcerated individuals.
“I have dedicated my life to serving the community after I have taken so much from it,” Gentry said.
He is an organizer for Unlock the Vote and campaigns to bring voting rights to people on probation and parole.
“Charlie Gentry has experienced injustice firsthand,” said Jake Hubbard, EXPO Missouri outreach coordinator. “The obstacles that have been implanted within his life would seem insurmountable to many. Charlie has not only overcome but motivated and encouraged others to reach their maximum potential.”
In addition to winning the Excellence in Civic Engagement Award, Lucy Grimshaw was selected to be part of the Newman Civic Fellowship 2020-21 cohort.
She is a leader on campus as a Student Government Association Senator and has participated in the Emerging Leaders Program and Advanced Leaders Program. She is also dedicated to supporting her community through her work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and other nonprofits.
Williams shares Grimshaw’s passion for supporting UMSL and its students. She is an officer in the Political Science Academy and gets students involved in elections through debate watch parties, voter registration drives and panels discussing current events. She also serves on the Students of Service board, an organization that provides UMSL students opportunities to give back to the local community.
Williams’ devotion to democracy inspired her to campaign for Joe Adams and Jill Schupp in their runs for Missouri Senate. During her time as a legislative intern, Williams lobbied on behalf of students pursuing degrees.
“Jasmin is an active participant in democracy,” said Manion, who nominated Williams for the award. “She is passionate about improving society through civic engagement.”