Founding Fifteen Campus Connections: The University Of Mississippi


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 the University of Mississippi reflected on the past ten years and their hopes for the future of civic engagement on the campus in University, Mississippi.

The University of Mississippi 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?

Mississippi has always faced greater barriers to voting than many other states. Prior to 2014, access to voting was hindered by the imposition of a voter ID law in 2011, and the removal of federal restrictions on the operation of polling locations sparked by the 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder court case. In addition to those restrictions, the lack of early voting, difficulty in the absentee process, and the semi-frequent closing of polling locations with little notice created barriers to voting in 2014 that continue to impact voters to this day.

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?

Overall, the University of Mississippi has seen an increase in voting and civic engagement. Not only have voting rates increased, but the past decade has seen many tumultuous periods in UM’s history, such as protests to remove confederate statues from campus, that have prompted engagement from the student body. Today, I think some of the most noticeable changes are increased participation in elections and a growth in the amount of student organizations interested in sparking conversation and engagement.

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

In general, students across campus are more interested in voting since 2014, and since 2020 specifically due to how central the right to vote has become in different political narratives. Civic engagement has become a more central priority of the school, and because of that there has been an increase in student, faculty, and staff engagement across campus. I think the University’s role has also been extremely beneficial in de-politicizing voting and civic engagement in order to reach students from across campus.

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?

The legacy of Andrew Goodman, James Early Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and the Freedom Summer have been extremely important to our campus over the past ten years. Especially as the home state of James Earl Chaney and the place in which Freedom Summer and the murder of these three civil rights workers took place, we have made consistent efforts in the past years to remember their legacy and to organize events to discuss their influence and history across campus. The legacy of these three men continues to shape what we do on campus.

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

The Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program has been incredibly influential in training students and providing resources for students to envision and workshop changes on campus. AGF has provided resources and guidance over the years that has shaped many of our policy ambitions, and has made our celebrations of civic holidays more robust.

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

Ten years from now, I hope civic engagement becomes so ingrained in student life that it is a casual part of every student’s life and part of every course. Not only would having election day as a holiday or asynchronous day benefit access to voting engagement, but having more opportunities for students to be involved on campus and in the community would greatly improve the dynamic atmosphere on campus.

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

Our team has many goals to increase and support voter engagement. In addition to continuing previous events on civil holidays, we are working to engage students where they spend their time by reaching out to different student organizations and by spreading awareness on social media. We have found that students are more likely to get involved when they see their peers participating, so we want to partner with other student organizations to encourage peer participation.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“The University of Mississippi is the Flagship University in our state, and as such has experienced massive changes over the course of its life. I believe that in recent years, due to support from various organizations, the new chapter of the University is working towards a more engaged and active student body.” -Caroline Leonard, 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.