December 1, 2020

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.

Day on Democracy Encourages Voting and Civic Engagement

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, […]

UMW Students Earn Voter Participation Award

Center for Community Engagement Associate Director Sarah Dewees, A.J. Robinson, Stephanie Turcios and Amber Brown show off UMW’s Platinum Seal award at the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Center for Community Engagement Associate Director Sarah Dewees, A.J. Robinson, Stephanie Turcios and Amber Brown show off UMW’s Platinum Seal award at the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

On the heels of last week’s statewide elections, UMW received the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Platinum Seal for schools with a student voter participation rate above 50 percent. Center for Community Engagement Associate Director Sarah Dewees accepted the award Tuesday with students at a ceremony held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

“I’m proud of our students but not surprised,” said President Troy Paino. “This national recognition reflects just one aspect of the longstanding commitment of Mary Washington’s faculty, staff and students to civic engagement.”

Since its 2016 launch, the challenge, a national initiative, has recognized and supported institutions of higher education in their efforts to achieve full student voter participation, promote an informed electorate and make civic engagement a core value on their campuses. To date, over 6.2 million students and more than 560 colleges and universities have taken the challenge. Read more. 

UMW Students Earn Voter Participation Award

On the heels of last week’s statewide elections, UMW received the 2019 ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Platinum Seal for schools with a student voter participation rate above 50 percent. Center for Community Engagement Associate Director Sarah Dewees accepted the award today with students at a ceremony held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. “I’m […]

Mary Washington Casts Vote for Participation on Election Day

Forty-five students registered to vote during UMW’s celebration of National Voter Registration Day. Photo by Matthew Sanders.

Forty-five students registered to vote during UMW’s celebration of National Voter Registration Day. Photo by Matthew Sanders.

When voters from across Virginia voice their opinions at the polls tomorrow, UMW students will be among them. That’s thanks in part to rides being offered all day to students who wish to cast ballots.

“Civic engagement isn’t just an idea at Mary Washington,” said Sarah Dewees, Associate Director of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which will provide rides, along with UMW Votes, Citizens for Democracy and other campus groups. “It’s a way of life.”

With a voting rate higher than the national average – and lots of planning and energy – UMW students have worked all year to keep it that way, from prepping voters for trips to the polls to establishing a “2020 Day on Democracy,” allowing classes to be cancelled on Election Day next year.

“When individuals miss their opportunity to vote, they miss their chance to have their voices heard,” said UMW Voting Ambassador Kayli Ottomanelli, a junior who cited issues that matter to undergrads, like tuition rates and student loan debt. “When younger generations don’t turn out to vote, we’re allowing older generations to decide on these significant matters for us.” Read more.