Lasting Impact: An Andrew Goodman Alumni Q&A With Patrick Mehler, Cornell University
Patrick Mehler was an Andrew Goodman Ambassador at Cornell University from 2020 to 2023, joining shortly after co-founding Cornell Votes, Cornell’s central hub of civic engagement and voting. He now is a master’s student at Cornell University where he previously graduated with a B.S. with Honors in Industrial and Labor Relations. As its first president and as an AGF Ambassador, Patrick led Cornell to an 18.7% increase in 2020 voter turnout, over 4,400 students, the highest number of students in the Ivy League. After the 2020 election, Patrick turned Cornell Votes’ and other Ambassadors’ efforts towards increasing student government voter turnout while serving as the Cornell Student Assembly’s youngest-ever Director of Elections; their efforts led to the Spring 2021 election seeing a 33% increase in voter turnout and the Fall 2021 election seeing a 31% increase. Before graduating and concluding his time as an Ambassador, Patrick was appointed to and served as the youngest city councilman on the Ithaca Common Council where he passed multimillion dollar infrastructure improvements, passed housing legislation, and successfully negotiated the continuation of the local bus.
Tell us about your experience as an Andrew Goodman Ambassador. Was there a campaign you championed as an Ambassador that you are particularly proud of?
Before becoming an AGF Ambassador in the summer of 2020, I was the co-founder and first president of Cornell Votes, Cornell University’s central nonpartisan voting organization. By serving in both of these roles from 2020-2022, I was able to unite both AGF’s and Cornell Votes’ vision of increasing civic engagement and voting participation among Cornellians and all college students. The main campaigns I championed were Cornell Votes’ creation, its subsequent partnerships with over a dozen national voting organizations including AGF, successfully negotiating on-campus polling sites, and creating vote.cornell.edu.
What legacy did you leave on campus for future generations of Ambassadors to continue?
On Cornell’s campus, my legacy for future Ambassadors and Cornell Votes members to use are on-campus polling sites and the creation of vote.cornell.edu.
As an Ambassador, how did you contribute to creating lasting change and a more democratic culture on your campus?
As an Ambassador, I contributed to making civic engagement a permanent part of being a Cornell student. By ensuring that the higher administration regularly communicated with students about voting, setting up educational systems for students to know about their on-campus polling sites, and creating a positive culture of civic engagement, I left a lasting mark of being a voter at Cornell. Additionally, as an Ambassador I served concurrently as the Cornell Student Assembly’s Director of Elections where I promoted both more voting and more candidates running for office in our student government elections. By ensuring that people could vote at every level and all the time, I ensured that democracy and civic engagement are everywhere at Cornell.
How did your time in the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program impact your development as a leader and community member?
My time in the program taught me not only how to lead others, but know when to be led and support others’ in their goals and missions. I continued to serve my community after the program as a city councilman on the Ithaca Common Council and I used my tools of consensus and coalition building to succeed there as well.
Tell us about what you’re doing today. How did your time as an Ambassador inform your continuing education, work, or volunteerism?
I’m currently pursuing a Master of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) at Cornell, building off my undergrad where I received a B.S. with Honors in ILR. My work primarily focuses on mediation and arbitration, where I am planning to become a full-time neutral after graduation. My time as an Ambassador was instrumental in my negotiating and organizing skill building that I continue to use professionally and through volunteering as a Cornell alumnus.
As an Alumni of our program, how are you continuing to reflect on our story and to carry forward the Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner legacy today?
By remembering the bravery of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, I am encouraged to do difficult things both in my community and in my work. By continuing to push for justice in my work as a neutral, I reflect positively on the legacy of the organizers before us.
What advice would you give to our current Ambassadors?
The only way you will be able to continue changing your campus and improve civic engagement is to try new strategies. Whether that’s through new programming, restructuring your outreach efforts, or collaborating with new partners, constantly evolving your work is the best way to make a impact in just four short years at college. Additionally, having the opportunity to connect with dozens of other student leaders working on voting rights made building a new system and network at Cornell so much easier. Connect with as many of your peers as possible!
Stay tuned as we continue our Lasting Impact series, featuring alumni of our Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program, what they’re doing today, and how they are still living the legacy.