UIC earns national awards for student voter engagement

Empowering students to form the habits of active and informed citizenship is a key part of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s mission.

Gold Campus, Excellence in Student Voter Engagement

UIC’s efforts in this area were recognized Tuesday when the university was among a select group of higher education institutions, educators and students to be honored by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for excellence in student voter engagement.

During a ceremony held in Washington, D.C., UIC received the national organization’s “Best Campus Action Plan” for 2018 and gold seal for having a campus voting rate between 40% and 49% in the 2018 midterm election. The university was selected for the honors from among 568 competing institutions.

Data provided by the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education at Tufts University shows UIC’s midterm voting rate was 41% in 2018, which is an increase of 22% from 2014.

“The success we have seen at UIC is 100% contributed to the Civic Engagement Core Group, which is made up of students, faculty and staff from across campus,” said Spencer Long, director of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement at UIC. “Using this coalition as a collective and collaborative intelligence group has provided for a much more comprehensive plan and approach to increase civic learning and democratic engagement on our campus.”

In a comparison of the same four-year period, UIC also registered marked improvements in registration rate (68.9% to 74.8%), voting rate of registered students (27.5% to 54.9%), and overall campus voting rate (18.9% to 41.1%).

UIC provides a variety of student-focused programs that are not only part of a campus plan to encourage voting, but they are also integrated into the student experience through year-round co-curricular leadership, service and civic engagement activities.

Ballot Party and Ball Pit Conversation
During a January 2019 event, Student Leadership and Civic Engagement used a ball-pit as the setting for its civic dialogue series, which allowed students to explore controversial topics and issues in a fun way. Photo: Fan Wang

From personal and professional development programs and workshops to nonpartisan civic engagement opportunities and volunteer service, UIC students are encouraged to become active citizens on campus and in their communities, Long said.

“The rise in voter participation and engagement on college campuses in last year’s midterms and what’s sure to be a high turnout in 2020 can and will undoubtedly be tied to the hard work of the dedicated students, faculty, administrators, and partner organizations that are part of the ALL IN Challenge network,” said Jen Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

According to Long, UIC’s goal in 2020 is to build on the initial success of its campus action plan for voter outreach and to ultimately earn 100% participation by eligible students.

“These initiatives will kick off in the spring semester with registration events and various voting education programs, including watch parties and ballot parties,” he said. “We will again have early voting on campus for City of Chicago residents leading up to the March primary.”

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge was launched in 2016 and is a program of Civic Nation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses organizing, engagement and public awareness to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges.

In March, UIC was one of only two Illinois institutions and one of 123 campuses in 31 states to be designated a Voter Friendly Campus by NASPA, the national organization of student affairs administrators in higher education, and the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project.

To learn more about UIC’s Student Leadership and Civic Engagement program and future events, visit https://slce.uic.edu/.

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