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University receives gold seal for voting efforts

At the 2019 ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony held to recognize colleges and universities committed to increasing college student voting rates, Texas Woman's University received a gold seal for achieving a student rate between 40% and 49%.

“TWU is proud to receive this national recognition for our efforts in our very first year," said Stephanie Krauth, associate vice president of student engagement. "Our campus community is committed to working together to reduce voter apathy, increase engagement and graduate civic-minded students prepared to solve our most pressing challenges.”

The university’s Denton campus served as an early voting site for the Nov. 5 election, and is slated to be an early voting site for the primaries in March 2020.

Clare Brock, assistant professor of government, got her students involved in the political process, assigning her Introduction to U.S. Government class to create a Denton Voters Guide.

Because the election featured four City of Denton bonds and 10 Texas propositions, Brock assigned half the class to complete full voter guide entries (a summary, plus arguments for and against) for the even-numbered items, with the other half completing the odd-numbered bonds and propositions.

“Most of the students turned in incredibly detailed, thoughtful, and well-researched assignments,” Brock said. She pulled out the best entries and edited their work to make a complete class voter guide, then distributed the completed guide to the class, the campus, and beyond.

Brock’s goal in assigning the project – and teaching in general – was to spark her students’ interest and, hopefully, passion. She also wants her students to acquire the skills they’ll need to participate fully as citizens and as community leaders.

“In all likelihood, most of my students will not become politicians, political science professors, or even policy analysts,” she said. “But all of these students, regardless of their future professions, will have the opportunity to be active and informed citizens.”

Brock said some of her students emailed her to say how much they got out of the voter guide.

“I offered extra credit for students who volunteered at the TWU polling location,” she said. “One student emailed me after volunteering and said, ‘It was also my first time voting, and the voter guide that we did helped so much!’

“Ultimately, that’s the purpose of this assignment, and really all the work we do here in the history and political science department,” Brock added. “We want to empower students to be informed and participate in democracy.”

Student participation in elections nationwide has increased from the 2014 midterm election to the recent 2018 midterm election. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (NSLVE), voter turnout at the more than 1,000 institutions participating in the study increased by 21 points from 19% to 40%. TWU's data reveals that its voting rate increased 28.2% from 2014 to 2018.

“We are excited to honor Texas Woman's University with an ALL IN Challenge gold seal in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “More institutions like TWU are changing culture on campus by institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement efforts that are resulting in the incredible student voter turnout rates that we’ve seen across the country.”

A full list of seal awardees can be viewed here.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan, national initiative recognizing and supporting campuses as they work to increase nonpartisan demcoratic engagement and full student voter participation. The Challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, and make democratic participation a core value on their campus.

More than 560 campuses, enrolling more than 6.2 million students, have joined the Challenge since its launch in summer 2016.