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The Importance of Educational Spaces

Civic Engagement New Professionals and Graduate Students Graduate New Professional
December 1, 2020 Aileen Assumma

As election season comes to an end many individuals may think they have a good two to four years before having to start their research and preparation for the next election. But this is a myth, while presidential election preparation takes place within longer capacities active citizens sometimes forget about our local elections, also known as municipal elections. Local elections often take place yearly depending on the seats, positions and needs. Historically, turnout for local elections is low though the results of local elections affect your day to day routine within your community. It is important not to forget about local elections and become an active voter within your community as well as encourage students in higher education to do the same. This is important during students' time in Higher Education as many times they are residing within communities for four or more years, the outcomes of local elections affect them in more ways than one such as land use, sanitation and more. As employees of higher education institutions, taking time to provide non-partisan spaces for learning about local elections is important, helping encourage students to participate in their civic responsibilities.

As young voters there are times students may be uncertain about who to vote for, what a position does or intimidated by voting. It is important that students have a space on their campus or within their communities to have open dialogue about their questions, concerns or ideas when it comes to elections including local. As campus leaders providing a non-partisan space can be the reason for success when institutions are encouraging their young students to be civically engaged citizens.

While we work to create positive change within our communities it is important to take the step in learning about local elections, local office positions and their roles, as well as ways communities can create efforts to enhance positive change outside of presidential races. This can be done by creating non-partisan efforts for voter engagement within a campus space:

  • Faculty and Staff support and participation

  • Partnering with student led clubs and organizations

  • Having an office be the designated space for all things voter related 

  • Working within your local community to build outside partnerships to further student engagement within local elections

  • Providing educational events and opportunities to learn more 

    • Panel discussions (these can be great ways to get local officials on campus and engaged with students)

    • Watch parties 

    • Voter registration days

Providing these events, and spaces for conversation can truly change the trajectory of an individual's civic activity throughout their life. When students become confident in their knowledge they will use it, they can confidently go to their polling location and vote in all elections. Encouraging students to do this can be powerful in building their passions, knowledge, and strengthening communities. As we look to a presidential election that has come to an end it is important as higher education employees, and students that we acknowledge and continue to take initiative in the electoral process because it is not just a once in every four year effort. Being active citizens is a daily effort and each year we have the ability to vote on those efforts.

Author: Aileen Assumma (She/Her/Hers) recently graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science program in Higher Education Policy and Student Affairs. During her four undergraduate years she was the Student Campus Election Coordinator for West Chester University of Pennsylvania, a non-partisan educational effort in partnership with Campus Election Engagement Project non-profit (CEEP). She is passionate about local coffee finds, good books, and cooking. She can be found on Linkedin: Aileen Assumma.