On Nov. 8, 2021, Virginia Wesleyan University was recognized for its excellence in voter engagement on campus. The award was given by ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is committed to nonpartisanship.
The goal of the challenge is to give colleges an incentive to promote voter participation by offering nationally recognized awards. VWU was given a “Silver Seal” award, meaning that 60 to 70 percent of the student population participated in the 2020 election.
Additionally, Virginia Wesleyan was recognized as “Best in Class” for private four-year universities in Virginia. President Miller also received recognition for his participation in the “President’s Commitment to Full Student Voter Participation” and was one of 332 collegiate presidents to make the list.
The ALL IN Challenge has multiple different categories in which schools can participate for awards. These categories include athletic challenges, state challenges, HBCU communities of practice and president’s commitment. The organization also provides resources that schools, coaches and individuals can use to encourage voter participation.
Adam Smedley, a senior at VWU, sees the positive impact that civic engagement makes on his college experience.
“I am proud of my fellow Marlins for getting out to the polls and voting,” Smedley said. “It’s great to know that people care about their future and what is happening in our country.”
Coming from Florida, junior Amruta Karkare is excited to see the level of political activity on campus and in the surrounding cities.
“When I was at home over break, there were only a few of my friends that were staying politically active so that they could make informed decisions,” Karkare said. “I love that Virginia Wesleyan is such an informed and involved community. I feel at home here and it brings me peace of mind knowing that my fellow students care about our country.”
In order for a university to be eligible for an ALL IN challenge award, there are a handful of steps that must be taken. First, the school must sign up and establish a campus-wide voting coalition. Next, the school must develop and implement a campus action plan. Lastly, the school must participate in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.
“I definitely noticed on campus that there were efforts being made for voter registration,” Karkare said. “Now that we have won the Silver Seal, it is clear that there was a lot of efficiency in those efforts.”
Hunter Nordberg, a senior political science major, is extremely active in local politics. He has experienced the level of willingness to participate in political debate and elections through his personal experiences.
“It’s evident that Marlins care about voting and who is representing us,” Nordberg said. “I’m sure we’ve all been asked if we were registered to vote as we walked into the Cafe, and those efforts have paid dividends. Even in odd-numbered years when enthusiasm for elections is typically down, Marlins have bucked that trend and continued to care about issues affecting us everyday.”
There is still room for improvement when it comes to the political participation of our student body. Going forward, Virginia Wesleyan has the opportunity to advance their voter engagement and reach a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.
By Katie Yeager