Rock the Vote

Student with cupcake after she registers to vote

A recent RAMS VOTE event called Beats and Eats rewarded students who either registered to vote or showed proof of registration with a cupcake party.

Photo credit: Nora Lewis

In the weeks leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3, URI faculty, staff, and students are celebrating civic engagement by hosting voter registration events and talking about civic responsibility.

There is a big push across the country for higher-ed institutions to engage students in the election process, says Amy Albert, the community engagement coordinator at the URI Center for Career & Experiential Education and the campus representative of the All-in Campus Democracy Challenge, a national, nonpartisan initiative. “We want to educate students on what civic engagement means, not just at the presidential level, but also in terms of thinking about local leaders’ races and elections.”

Albert is working with URI’s Division of Student Affairs and the RAMS VOTE initiative, as well as several other university groups, on civic education work. Albert noted, in particular, the efforts of Carolyn Betensky and Brendan Skip Mark, English and political science professors, respectively, who approached her asking what faculty could do to encourage students’ civic engagement.

An engaged citizenry

Albert, Betensky, and Mark co-wrote a letter to faculty members encouraging them to take a few moments of class time in the coming weeks to engage students in a nonpartisan discussion of democracy, voting, and what it means to be a member of an engaged citizenry.

“We wanted to use our positions as information sources and campus mentors,” Betensky says. “We believe that faculty have an important role to play in explaining to students the vital importance of participating in our democracy.”

“To hear from faculty can make a huge impact on students,” Albert says. “Students are inundated with email and social media these days, but to hear a faculty member talk can be meaningful.” 

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, RAMS VOTE sponsored Beats and Eats, a voter-registration event. Eighty-one students either registered or confirmed their registration, Albert says.

For more information about the All-in Campus Democracy Challenge and campus civic engagement initiatives, contact Amy Albert or call the URI Center for Career & Experiential Education at 401.874.2568.