Exercising the right to vote

By Kyle Hobstetter on June 25, 2018

With yearlong programs, and award-winning recognition, TU continues to show students the importance of political engagement

Students Checking Out Political Brochure
Towson University's Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility offers voter registration and education programs to students. 

One of the goals of Towson University’s Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility is to help TU students to be better citizens.

This includes helping students understand that political engagement — which includes voting, advocating for policy, and engaging in the political process —  is an important part of being an engaged citizen. 

That’s why Towson University offers voter registration and educational programs year-round, with an extra emphasis during election season. The Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility also collaborates with student organizations and campus groups in their own political engagement efforts.”

“Not only do we have a responsibility to provide resources and empowerment for our students to exercise their right to vote, but also to continuously educate one another about the issues that affect our society.” said Luis Sierra, assistant director of civic engagement at TU. “As an institution committed to ‘develop[ing] intellectual and social abilities that will guide students as contributing members of the workforce and of a democratic society,’ it is not only important, but our responsibility.”

In 2017, TurboVote recognized TU and the All In Campus Democracy Challenge as a “Silver Seal Campus.” With a voting rate of 60.7 percent, TU earned the award for being one of TurboVote’s top 40 campuses for voter engagement.

Turbovote, project of non-profit Democracy Works,  is an online application that works with colleges, universities and non-profits to get people registered to vote.

According to Sierra and the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, this award can be credited to TU’s many political programs, including:

  • Organizing three major TurboVote/Voter Registration Drives
  • Hosting two Vote Everywhere Ambassadors on campus to help with voter registration drives
  • Hosting debate-viewing parties on campus
  • Partnering with Housing and Residence Life and the Department of Political Science to support and advice the Political Engagement Residential Learning Community
  • Working with volunteers to hand out voter information flyers through heavily trafficked sections of the campus during election week
  • Hosting New York Times Talks/Campus Conversations, which are four facilitated discussions centered on relevant issues in the news, with the last semester focused primarily on voting and campaign platform issues.

TUInnovates Blog: TU receives Silver Seal for excellence in student volunteer engagement 

And according to Sierra, during the 2018-2019 academic year, voter registration and engagement efforts will be reorganized as TU Votes. Through it, not only will TU intend to continue providing various opportunities to mobilize voter registration, but it will also streamline the process through which the TU community can get involved.

One of the students who got involved is Sophie Bertrand ’20, a psychology major from Columbia, Maryland. Bertrand serves as one of TU’s Vote Everywhere ambassadors, and was recently selected to represent TU as a Newman Civic Fellow.  The Newman Civic Fellowship, hosted by Campus Contact, recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country

Bertrand always had an interest in politics, one that she gained from reading newspapers and magazines with her parents. That interest intensified her freshman year at TU when she was captivated by the 2016 presidential election. Although she was too young to vote, she got involved by helping others register.

Since then Bertrand has continued to her work on getting other students involved in politics. Along with voter registration, she helped create the “New Voter after Registration Guide” which helps students new to voting know what to do after they register to vote.

“A lot of people register to vote, but a lot of people don’t know the next step after that,” Bertrand said. “Working with other students, and seeing that these issues are relevant to my peers, kept me going and helped me stay motivated.

“Youth voters are the future. We need to interact with the world around us and shape it properly. It’s our responsibility.”  

The work of Bertrand and other students involved with political engagement on campus inspires the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility to support these programs in the hope that TU’s student voter registration will continue to grow.

“It truly makes us proud to work with students truly vested into turning their passions, ideas and skills into next steps to make their communities and world a better place,” Sierra said. We look forward to seeing Sophie and the rest of the student leaders we work with grow and develop, all while serving their communities and empowering their peers to do the same.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.