Last year, the university’s Center for Civic Engagement & Learning (CCEL) spearheaded a host of nonpartisan initiatives to shake loose apathy and encourage more students to participate in the political process. Among them: voter registration, voter education and collaborations with various campus stakeholders to get out the vote.
As a result, Case Western Reserve University earlier this month was recognized nationally as a “Voter-Friendly Campus” (one of 83 campuses in 23 states) by the national nonpartisan organizations, Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
The select designation, which continues through 2018, recognizes institutions for planning and implementing practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in the 2016 general election and in coming years.
As part of that effort, three Case Western Reserve students—Ashley Chan, Sierra Lipscomb and Austin Stroud—served as Vote Everywhere Ambassadors, a national program supported by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the namesake’s parents to honor their son, who was murdered in Mississippi in 1964 by Ku Klux Klan members with two other civil rights workers while on a mission to register African-Americans voters in the South.
Under the guidance of CCEL Student Service Coordinator Laura Bentley and CCEL Director Betsy Banks, the ambassadors worked tirelessly last semester to register students and continue to promote nonpartisan political engagement on campus.
We spoke with Chan about the experience.
Chan, a sophomore economics major from Shelton, Connecticut, said she’s been interested and engaged in politics and government since high school, where she was involved all four years in the school’s Junior State of America chapter, participating in debates on wide-ranging topics.
“For me, it’s more about advocacy and speaking up about something, and just educating other people,” she said. “It’s all about outreach and building a community that this really resonates with.”
Chan and her fellow ambassadors spent much of last semester conducting voter-registration drives and making presentations to student organizations, such as Greek Life and Residence Hall Association, to explain how to register and why it was important. Much of the work involved correcting misperceptions about the process, she said.
Now, with the general election over, they’re focusing more on providing information to stay engaged, such as distributing voter-registration forms and contact information for government representatives.
Chan, who works as director of web and multimedia for the university’s student newspaper, The Observer, and serves as chief financial officer for her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, is also interested in developing programming to encourage voter registration and political engagement among local youth.
“We just want young people to use their voices,” said Chan, who hopes to pursue urban planning and city design. “We want you to just speak up and not have this apathetic mindset of affecting change.”
Learn more about Chan in this week’s five questions:
1. What do you like most about Cleveland?
The part of Cleveland I love most is its culture and neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is distinctive, yet embodies the humble spirit and heart of Cleveland. I love visiting mom-and-pop shops and small local restaurants, where I can always learn more about Cleveland and its community.
2 .What’s your favorite social media platform?
My favorite platform is Facebook. I view it as a place to store memories and share significant moments or thoughts.
3 .What was the most influential class you’ve ever taken?
The most influential course I’ve taken was a SAGES course about education reform. We were able to visit several schools around Cleveland that utilized different teaching methods. The exposure to Cleveland and a wide range of students made a profound impact in the way I viewed the city and the community it served.
4. If you could meet any historical figure, who would you pick, and why?
If I could meet any historical figure, I would meet Martin Luther King Jr. His compassion and dedication to others are qualities I strive to have for friends and strangers.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I enjoy the intersection between different courses and majors. It allows me to expand my knowledge and understanding of a subject. CWRU’s location and resources empower me to apply my knowledge practically.