UMSL recognized as ‘Voter Friendly Campus’ for efforts to foster engagement
Setting up virtual voter registration events, creating a student-driven social media campaign and educating students on changes in the local election process are some of the reasons why the University of Missouri–St. Louis has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus.”
The designation comes from national nonpartisan organizations Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. It recognizes higher education institutions for planning and implementing practices to encourage their students to register and vote, beginning with the 2020 elections and continue in the years ahead.
UMSL was recognized for the third time. It joined 230 other campuses in 37 states and the District of Columbia in receiving the designation, which is valid through December 2022. Among the institutions recognized, four are in the St. Louis region.
The Voter Friendly Campus designation seeks to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. UMSL was evaluated based on voter engagement efforts under an implementation plan to educate and register students and increase voter turnout in 2020 – all in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The UMSL Civic Engagement Coalition, made up of faculty, staff and students from across the campus, was very effective this fall, even with the challenges of conducting meetings virtually by being flexible and creative in hosting events both online and in person following restrictive protocols due to the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Patricia Zahn, UMSL’s director of community outreach and engagement.
UMSL met the challenge with a drive to increase student engagement in a virtual environment. Student fellows supported by the Campus Election Engagement Project held drop-in class visits to help students register online using computers and mobile devices. CEEP fellows also held on-campus voter education events and took part in virtual film screenings, debate watches and panel discussions.
Working with faculty, students created a digital marketing campaign that included educational brochures, a dedicated website at www.umsl.edu/go/vote and a successful “Power to the Polls” social media initiative that increased engagement across all digital platforms.
“One thing that we learned as a result of COVID-19 restrictions is that we can conduct successful interactive events using online platforms, reaching students who had not been able to participate in on-campus programs in the past,” Zahn said. “This is something that we will continue to take into account and make sure to offer both in-person and virtual programming in the future.”
UMSL also helped members of the campus and broader community meet the notarization requirement for mail-in and absentee ballots. Faculty and alumni worked together to recruit and support the training for 22 new notary publics, in addition to hosting notary events on campus and providing volunteers to serve as notaries for community voting events.
The university made a strong statement about the civic mission of higher education to prepare students to be engaged participants. For example, the process for elections in the City of St. Louis changed in November, and UMSL is collaborating with community partners on events to help students and community constituents understand the new election process.
“The efforts of a civically engaged, voter-friendly campus do not take place only every couple of years,” Zahn said. “Instead, they should be a constant, integrated across all parts of the university. This is what we do at UMSL.”
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=88425