NACA BLOG - Virtual Activities & Voter Education - 4/3/2020

NACA Board and executive director

April 3, 2020
Ellen Wehrman, Campus Election Engagement Project
Dani Rossman, Central Michigan University 

​Student activities professionals are in a valuable position to be able to provide students with nonpartisan voter education. As many universities are moving to online education for the remainder of the spring semester, now is the time to begin considering what student affairs work might look like in an online-only environment and how we can include voter education as a core tenant of that work. Below are a few simple ways that you can engage your students now in a virtual environment while getting them ready to vote.

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote 

Share/attend the Seat at the Table multimedia exhibit that commemorates the 19th Amendment and explores “where are we now?” 100 years later. Share/attend the Crusade for the Vote online exhibits from the National Women’s History Museum. Share resources and promote events from the Vision 2020: Women 100 Project.

Build Community and Support Voting at the Same Time 

Promote virtual Living Room Conversations so students can begin or continue to connect with others in civil discourse. Are you planning to host virtual crafting or coloring nights to promote relaxation and creativity? Make the event election themed! Consider these voting themed coloring pages that can be printed or colored online or this voting themed drawing lesson. Or consider hosting a trivia night using an online platform or service. Trivia can be themed to teach students about US President Themed Trivia, Women's Suffrage Trivia, or many other election themed topics.

Go on a Virtual Field Trip 

Guide students through places like Ellis Island, an exhibit featuring individuals active in the Civil Rights Movement and Chicano voting movement, or photographs of Civil Rights Era sites. Login to a video platform, share your screen, and take your students on a trip, while talking to them about the role the art and the historical places have played in voting in the US.

Promote Local Government Live Broadcasts 

Many municipalities and state agencies are sharing information, expert panel discussions, and meetings virtually (Facebook Live, YouTube, government websites, public access TV). Share relevant opportunities on any calendars and social media outlets you control. If you want students to participate in a live conversation, create or share a hashtag to create community. If there is a local topic of interest, invite your local elected officials to participate in a digital panel discussion aimed at the student community perspective

Support Student Organizations in Moving Elections Online 

Encouraging students to engage in civic activities can begin by modeling it at the student organization level. And with late spring semester being the time many organizations hold their elections for the next school year, now is your chance. As organizations navigate their own online processes, help them model what a democratic process can look like by sharing resources and best practices for hosting online elections and offering one-on-one web consultations for setting up organization elections using this new medium.

Talk to Students About the US Census 

In addition to participating in November’s presidential election, one of the most important things students can do for your community is to complete the 2020 Census. College students are one of the “hard to count” groups, and it’s often because they aren’t sure where to be counted. Students who live on campus will be counted by campus residential staff. Students who live off campus (even if temporarily displaced by the current health pandemic) should be counted where they spend most of their nights, which usually means their campus-adjacent housing. It takes less than 10 minutes! Share this explanatory video from the Census Bureau and/or these free-to-use graphics on your department social media. Student organizations can also adapt strategies from this toolkit.

All Together Now 

Community is important, wherever we are building it. Engaging students in voter education can and should happen whether you are interacting with your students in person or online. Read more creative ways to incorporate voter education into your student activities programming in “Powerful Ways to Prepare Students for Elections,” which we co-wrote with Talyce Murray of the Campus Election Engagement Project, set to appear in the forthcoming May/June issue of NACA’s Campus Activities Programming® magazine. 

Ellen Wehrman is the Michigan state director for the Campus Election Engagement Project. She previously worked at Central Michigan University, Marietta College (OH), Loyola University Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. She’s also advised several programming boards, has written for Campus Activities Programming® magazine and has attended multiple NACA events. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree higher education administration from Loyola University Chicago.

Dani Rossman is assistant director of Student Activities and Involvement at Central Michigan University, where in 2016, she was named the institution’s Fraternity and Sorority Advisor of the Year and received its Honors Program Alumni Service Award. She has contributed to peer reviewed presentations on student engagement and employability and parent and family partnerships that foster student success. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in higher education administration, both from Central Michigan University.

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