Students at the University of Mary Washington know participation in our democracy is a process, not just something that happens on one Tuesday in November.
All fall, they’ve encouraged one another in thoughtful consideration of social and political issues, voter registration, early voting and other meaningful participation in how Americans govern ourselves. So by Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022, they were ready to celebrate.
They did it in a big way, as UMW held its third annual Day on Democracy to support student engagement in society and politics. The event combined volunteer opportunities, a bookmobile visit, information-sharing and games on Campus Walk, plus an election night watch party. A student roundtable featured representatives of several clubs and groups. And Melissa Martinez, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs, spoke about “Civic Engagement and Human Rights.”
A chief focus was physically getting student voters to the polls, courtesy of the nonpartisan UMW Votes. The group sponsored rides on the Fredericksburg Trolley to the city’s Dorothy Hart Community Center, the polling place for students living on campus.
“It is great to see so many students voting,” said Sarah Dewees, who works closely with UMW Votes as the director of the Center for Community Engagement. “This day reflects the culmination of work on the part of many different student groups supporting voter registration this fall.”
It all factored into what UMW first-year student Tonia Attie and Associate Professor of Psychology W. David Stahlman describe in a just-published Forbes article as “Bringing Game-Day Energy to Election Season on College Campuses.”
Students’ civic engagement also recently earned UMW a spot on Washington Monthly’s Best Colleges for Student Voting honor roll. To make this list, schools must participate in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge; have public data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement; and have shown a repeated commitment to increasing student voting.
UMW students’ high voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election netted Gold Campus status from ALL IN. The award recognized that between 70 and 79% of students voted in that election.