October Membership Spotlight – North Central College
This year, Illinois Campus Compact teamed up with the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) to offer member institutions mini grants to increase voter engagement. One of the six schools that received this grant was North Central College. We spoke to Josh Simmons, a North Central student who is working as the college’s CEEP Fellow. Josh is a junior studying political science and economics. His main goal as a CEEP fellow this fall is to raise voter awareness on campus.
Before voter registration ended, one of Josh’s duties was to register students. He did a lot of outreach through tabling on campus. This way he was able to speak directly with students, a technique that proved to be an advantage for Josh. He said that after a few weeks of tabling, students recognized him throughout campus. Josh worked mainly with the Political Science Department and the Center for Social Impact, and over time he felt like he was the voter liaison for these offices. Many times students would stop him on campus to ask voting related questions. Josh was happy to be this resource for his fellow students. Being a student, he knew that he was more approachable and accessible than other resources.
Another benefit of the student CEEP fellow that Josh mentioned, was that he was able to connect better with students. He understood their concerns and their frustrations, and was able to educate them without being overly didactic. Josh was most surprised about students who were registered to vote and educated about topics, but chose not to vote because they feel like it’s not an agent of change. Josh created a voting engagement campaign geared toward addressing these feelings from students.
Josh took to campus with a Polaroid camera and asked students to finish this sentence on a large sign, “My Vote Matters Because.” He gathered these photos on a poster board and presented it to students while he tabled. By doing this he showed reluctant students that there are valid and good reasons that their peers are voting. A tactic that might be more convincing than professors and staff telling students, “it’s your civic duty.”
In the month that follows Josh will work together with the North Central Student Government to engage students in voting. Josh wants to make sure that students know where to vote and what is going to be on their ballot. He will continue tabling throughout campus to remain a resource for students and their questions. Together, Josh and the student government will be holding a March to the Polls, an event dedicated to ensuring students actually arrive at the polls.
As the Campus Election Engagement Project Fellow, Josh attended Webinars presented by CEEP Directors. He said that these webinars were incredibly helpful for him to understand his position. They also shared tips and ideas that Josh used this fall.
When asked if Josh would do anything differently or if he has ideas to continue this work, Josh said that he has definitely thought about ways to be more successful. He thinks creating QR codes would be really helpful. Placing them on flyers or even T Shirts, would make it easy for students to access information. Many students are on their way to class or work when confronted by canvassers. Josh thinks a QR code linking them to the information or site they need, would combat a lot of the inconveniences for student voters.
Campus Election Engagement Project not only offers mini grants, but they also gather resources for campus voter engagement. Check out their site to find voter education materials, voter guides, and more important tools during this election season.