Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Promising Practices: Institutionalizing Voter Registration in Move-in Day
Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere’s promising practices are a key set of recommendations for cultivating civic engagement and access on campus and ultimately sustaining inclusive and equitable campus cultures. This is the fourth post in a Q&A series with Andrew Goodman Campus Champions about our promising practices and how to implement them on campus.
A Q&A with Angeline Vuong, Andrew Goodman Campus Champion at University of San Francisco
Since 2017, the Andrew Goodman Campus Team at the University of San Francisco (USF) has registered 5,000 people to vote, which is nearly half the size of the university’s overall student population. How did they do it, you might wonder? The USF Campus Team accomplished this massive feat via institutionalization, a strategy of embedding voter registration into recurring, preexisting campus processes.
At USF, institutionalization fit best with move-in day, not only for the practical reason of receiving on-campus addresses at move-in day, but also for a cultural one. Our USF Campus Team believes that demonstrating that civic and voter engagement are part of USF’s campus culture from the day students first set foot on campus is of utmost importance. In fact, because democratic engagement aligns with the values that are at the core of USF’s Jesuit education, our Campus Team found compelling ways to garner administrative buy-in for institutionalization—and beyond.
To learn more about how the USF Andrew Goodman Campus Team makes voter registration a central component of every move-in day, read our Q&A with Andrew Goodman Campus Champion Angeline Vuong below.
What led the Andrew Goodman Campus Team at the University of San Francisco to pursue institutionalizing voter registration in move-in day?
The Andrew Goodman Campus Team at the University of San Francisco, USFVotes, understands the importance of building a community that lives out the Jesuit values of social justice, ethical public service leadership, and the common good. Building a community that prioritizes these values in every aspect of campus life is how USF builds a voter identity on campus. The Campus Team institutionalized voter registration into move-in day because we wanted to double down on the idea that we are building the common good through voter engagement and political participation. Institutionalizing voter registration is part of the priority of the USF Andrew Goodman Campus Team and never more so than when a new student sets foot on campus at move-in day. When we are present at move-in day—whether parents are walking alongside their students to pick up a name tag and orientation packet, or student leaders are ushering new students to their dorms, or faculty and staff are welcoming new USF students—we are visibly demonstrating how our campus is part of a national effort to change the narrative of low voter turnout.
How did you and the Andrew Goodman Campus Team implement this promising practice? What partnerships or resources did you engage?
Institutionalizing voter engagement as part of the USF identity is key because ensuring that voting is an integral part of the student experience cultivates life-long civic participants. The Andrew Goodman Foundation provides our Ambassadors a summer training on civic engagement, and at this entry point, our Ambassadors are given the tools to enact tangible results in voter registration, education, and engagement. The Foundation uniquely provides our Campus Team with key trainings throughout the year, webinars to learn from partner institutions, branding and communications materials, and best practices to engage our campus around voting and civic participation. These key elements are positive tools that we implement on campus, and in turn, support us in developing a voter identity at the University of San Francisco.
From the first moment students step foot on campus at move-in day, they know that the spirit of voting is part of the USF experience. The Andrew Goodman Campus Team partners with Student Life, Residential Halls, the Registrar, Athletics, Greek Life, Student Leadership, and USF Orientation to ensure that every eligible student is registered to vote at move-in day. We worked with the University Communication’s office to rollout voter registration for new students by sending targeted emails to every constituent during the summer and up until the countdown to move-in day to prepare, inform, and engage students. We also work with the Housing and Student Life departments to make sure that students living on campus have access to register to vote and that every student constituent group has the USFVotes Andrew Goodman Campus Team front and center at move-in day. Move-in day is more than just getting a name tag and finding your new dorm. In the same vein as students getting an ID, they get an “I Registered to Vote” sticker when they move through the check-in process on their first day on campus.
What challenges or obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome these to achieve your goal?
With any sort of institutional change comes a few bumps in the road. One key challenge involved getting buy-in from our university’s internal stakeholders who didn’t understand why building a voter identity connected to the institutional mission of preparing ethical public service leaders. When the Andrew Goodman Campus Team was started in Fall 2017, this concept of voter registration on campus at a large institutional scale was fairly new. In learning more about what other universities were doing, sharing best practices in the field, and seeing how to implement voter registration at move-in day at USF, we continued to build the messaging about voter engagement and its connection to USF’s mission. This required continuous relationship building, communication, and reinforcing the urgency of the time and eventually, quantifying the impact of institutionalizing voter registration at move-in day.
Since implementing this promising practice, what impact has it had on your campus?
Since the USF Andrew Goodman Campus Team institutionalized voter registration at move-in day in Fall 2017, we have registered over 5,000 folks to vote out of a student population of 11,000. The impact has been long-standing. The greater university community has supported additional efforts in voter registration, education, and engagement activities. We have continued to build on our internal stakeholder relationships, and our USFVotes Andrew Goodman Campus Team is the “go to” expert on all things voting on campus. New students continue to register to vote at larger numbers at move-in day, and this new generation of students is more politically engaged, hungry to address policy issues that affect them, and most importantly, our students enter spaces willing to make their voices heard in the halls of power. By taking that first step to register to vote, our students are showing up to the polls and have improved our National Student of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) results across the board.
What advice do you have for other colleges and universities trying to institutionalize voter registration in move-in day?
Build relationships and cultivate them early on with various internal stakeholders—the Registrar’s Office, Residential Housing, Student Leadership, University Communications, President’s Office, Admissions, and more. Map out a web of partners and connect the importance of voter engagement and the university vision and mission. Move-in day is the bread and butter of higher education institutions—it’s that day when you share with new students who you are, what you care about, and how to enact change. As you think about institutionalizing voter registration on move-in day, ensure that voting is an integral part of the student experience right when they step onto campus. Doing so and getting buy-in from the rest of the university community—staff, students, faculty, administration, parents, and alumni—will be vital to building a voter identity.
Now that you have achieved this promising practice, what opportunities will the Andrew Goodman Campus Team at the University of San Francisco explore next to advance civic engagement on your campus?
Our own experiences are just one piece of a national effort to change the narrative of low voter turnout on college campuses. We hope to continue to build momentum at every move-in day, through the relationships we have built, narrative that we have crafted, and enthusiasm that students are expressing to bring their voices to the ballot box and in the halls of power. There is never an off year to voter participation and engagement. We will continue to develop and learn, innovate and explore all of the opportunities to learn from campus partners and our own voting champions here at USF. Voter registration is something we will continue to pursue, using NSLVE data to improve at every turn to strategically engage with students so that they are prepared with the information to be informed voters at the polls, particularly in the upcoming 2020 primaries and general election. Voter education is a massive component that we hope to continue to explore. College access, climate change, criminal justice, homelessness and housing, voter suppression, and Census 2020 are issues that we intend to address. What better way to engage with young voters than to meet them in classrooms, dormitories, and club meetings to show the visible place political participation holds at USF.
By institutionalizing voter registration into move-in day, the Andrew Goodman Campus Team at the University of San Francisco demonstrates the engaged spirit of USF’s campus and cultivates students’ identities as lifelong voters. To learn about other strategies for creating civically engaged campus cultures, check out the other promising practices in our series.
About The Authors
Margaret Sasser is AGF’s Senior Communications Manager. Margaret is passionate about civil rights issues, storytelling, and helping students to become active members of their communities.
Angeline Vuong joined the McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco in 2017 as the Program Manager of Community-Engaged Learning. She oversees the Center’s undergraduate public service programs and supports community-engaged learning across the institution.