February 5, 2023

Day on Democracy Encourages Voting and Civic Engagement

Held on Election Day, the inaugural Day on Democracy, a campus-wide celebration organized by Mary Washington students and alums, encourages civic education and participation and makes voting easier for UMW students.

Held on Election Day, the inaugural Day on Democracy, a campus-wide celebration organized by Mary Washington students and alums, encourages civic education and participation and makes voting easier for UMW students.

Ashley Utz was a freshman at the University of Mary Washington when she registered to vote. To cast her ballot, she needed to find time during her busy class schedule and figure out which polling place was hers.

“My inexperience with the voting process made it all the more challenging,” said Utz, now a senior, who has spent the past two years working with fellow students and Marina Castro-Meirelles ’18 to launch UMW’s inaugural Day on Democracy, making voting easier for Mary Washington students. Cancelling lecture classes on Election Day is just one aspect of this nonpartisan celebration – the first student-initiated event of its kind at a public, four-year institution in the United States – filled with civic education and political participation opportunities.

At the same time, in response to a polarized election season, the University is reminding students to honor others’ opinions and uphold UMW’s community values through ASPIRE Speak, a new initiative that promotes civility and respectful discourse.

“UMW attracts civic-minded students, and research shows that close relationships with faculty, like the ones formed at Mary Washington, often have a positive impact on voting rates,” Castro-Meirelles said. Nearly 87 percent of UMW students were registered to vote in 2016, exceeding the national average, according to a report released by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement. Read more.