UMSL recognized as a ‘Voter Friendly Campus’ for fourth time
The University of Missouri–St. Louis has earned a renewed designation as a “Voter Friendly Campus” from the Fair Elections Center‘s Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
The designation is meant to recognize higher education institutions for their work planning and implementing practices to encourage their students to register and vote, beginning with the 2022 election and continuing in the years ahead.
This is the fourth time UMSL has received the designation, this year joining 257 other campuses in 38 states and the District of Columbia on the 2023-24 list.
“I’m excited that we continue to grow and do this great work, but I’m just not surprised anymore,” said Patricia Zahn, UMSL’s director of community engagement and outreach. “The work that we do on our campus isn’t anything new. It’s a part of who we are. I’ve said this before: we have amazing students who are really engaged in their communities and care about what’s going on, and we have faculty and staff that support that and create opportunities for students to be engaged.”
Zahn worked with Professor David Kimball, chair of the Department of Political Science and a member of the university’s Civic Engagement Coalition, to prepare the report UMSL submitted for consideration.
It highlighted the numerous ways members of the UMSL community work to promote civic engagement, from holding voter registration efforts to events that provide voter education.
As part of the university’s annual Constitution Day in September, the Political Science Academy co-sponsored a virtual discussion with faculty members Lara Zwarun and Alan Heisel titled “Speaking Freely: Silencing and Amplifying Voices, Votes, and You.” On Oct. 17, 2022, PSA held a panel on the proposed amendment – Amendment 3 – to the Missouri Constitution legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in the state. On Oct. 28, UMSL’s chapter of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri welcomed St. Louis County Republican Board of Elections Director Rick Stream to an event about the election and voting procedures at UMSL.
Kimball, Zwarun and Assistant Professor of Political Science Anita Manion led a group of students on a tour of the St. Louis County Board of Elections.
In one of UMSL’s most important initiatives, members of the Civic Engagement Coalition worked with the Board of Elections to make the Millennium Student Center a polling place for St. Louis County voters in both the 2022 primary and general elections.
“We did have people from the community come in and use the site,” Zahn said. “The people on campus and from the community who used it appreciated it, and as more people become even more aware of it, I think that will be helpful.”
One of the reasons UMSL has been so successful promoting voting and engagement is that it doesn’t limit its efforts to only the months before national elections.
“It’s part of what we do regularly,” Zahn said. “Every year, we have different opportunities for students to go to Jefferson City to meet with their legislators. We just had a Women in Politics event, even though this is an off year. Our faculty promote this in their classes. As part of the First-Year Experience, we talk about civic engagement, and we do a lot of volunteer activities.
“It’s all interconnected. It’s not just about voting, but it’s about how do you become a good citizen? It’s about civic participation, caring about your community and showing up.”
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