Founding Fifteen Campus Connections: Tennessee State University

This year, AGF is celebrating ten years of impact with the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Program. One of “Founding Fifteen” campuses, the Campus Team at Tennessee State University reflected on the past ten years and their hopes for the future of civic engagement on the campus in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tennessee State University has been an Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere campus since the program began back in 2014! What barriers to voting existed on campus prior to 2014?

In 2014, there was a lack of coordinated voter registration efforts, access to polling sites, funding, or a political environment conducive to advocating for voting rights on campus.

From what you know of how things were in 2014, when it comes to voting and civic engagement on campus, what are some of the most noticeable changes?

The most notable changed include having more university organizations on campus who have become interested in voting access, more engagement from the TSU Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, and more engagement in policy issues due to underfunding of Tennessee State University (TSU) as a land grant institution.

How has the general campus’ perception of voting and civic engagement evolved since 2014?

Due to actions of the state legislature, TSU stakeholders have become more engaged. The reporting on the historic underfunding coupled with the changing political landscape has fostered renewed interest in the civic engagement space.

How has your Campus Team reflected on the legacy of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Freedom Summer 1964 over these ten years?

Andrew Goodman Ambassadors at Tennessee State University hold important discussions with campus stakeholders regarding issues impacting students on campus (e.g. housing, voter access) as part of this legacy. Our campus teams over the years have discussed and reflected on the importance of their legacies and the encroachment on voting rights taking place across the country and in Tennessee.

What are some ways that the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program has supported your efforts on campus to increase voter and civic engagement?

One of the main ways that the Vote Everywhere Program shows support for our campus is through the HBCU Lead Program Manager. Gabrielle is always ready to listen to ideas, answer questions, and provide guidance and feedback/suggestions to better our status.

What are your hopes and dreams for what civic engagement will look like on campus ten years from now?

The main dream for civic engagement on the Tennessee State University campus would be to have an on-campus polling site for the students.

What are the team’s main goals to increase and support voter engagement and turnout in 2024?

Our main goals are to:
Create a more formal voter engagement into the campus introduction class; UNIV1000 and potentially intro to political science courses.
Have a stabilized TSU AGF Ambassador Team.
Increase voter engagement with campus partners.
Figure out the logistics behind getting an on-campus polling site for the students.
Having a monthly newsletter to encourage students to get involved and vote.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“As a new Andrew Goodman Ambassador, it was a challenge in the beginning to learn the ropes of how everything works and imagine what all I could possibly do. Dr. Robinson, the campus all-star, and Gabrielle Slaughter, AGF’s HBCU Lead Program Manager, was a great help in pursing this opportunity. I look forward to implementing the various ideas that are waiting to be experienced by the college students. Another great addition will be our second Campus Ambassador who I am more than excited to collaborate with. This election year will be one to remember!” -Laianni Moore, Andrew Goodman Ambassador

Stay tuned as we continue our Campus Connections series, featuring each of our Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Campus Teams, the impact made on campus, and how they are living the legacy during this pivotal point in our nation’s history.