The Power of Partnership at Stony Brook
Within a few short weeks, they registered thousands of students to vote and showcased the tremendous impact of a Vote Everywhere partnership.
Steven Adelson and Page Keating joined Vote Everywhere during the summer of 2015. Steven, founding Ambassador and sophomore at the time, learned about Vote Everywhere in December 2014 and set out to bring the program to Stony Brook, a large and selective school in the state university system in New York.
“During the Fall semester of my sophomore year, following a successful summer of voter registration coinciding with new student orientation, I was introduced to The Andrew Goodman Foundation and its mission through the Division of the Dean of Students at Stony Brook University,” said Steven. “I knew Stony Brook had the potential to further its civic and voter engagement efforts. It became evident Vote Everywhere would present the perfect combination of inspiration, motivation, resources, and expertise in order to advance our work to involve students in community and political activity.”
Although the campus has robust student programming, no group focused primarily on the intersection of voter and civic engagement. “Voter registration at Stony Brook University had always been an additional responsibility for a professional staff member. When Steven and Page became Vote Everywhere Ambassadors and assumed the responsibility of voter registration, it changed the civic engagement culture on campus in a remarkable way,” said Ellen Driscoll, Stony Brook’s Assistant Dean of Students and the team’s Vote Everywhere Campus Champion.
Steven led student voter engagement efforts on campus prior to Vote Everywhere’s inaugural year on the Stony Brook campus, however, the partnership with The Andrew Goodman Foundation enabled Stony Brook to become a part of the Vote Everywhere network, providing the campus team with a national framework, identity, and more tools to broaden their reach.
During the summer of 2015, Page Keating was a rising junior who had just returned from her studies at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. A dual major in biology and anthropology, Page responded to the call for candidates and applied to be a first-generation VE Ambassador at Stony Brook.
“I found out about the opportunity through a friend in the Office of the Dean of Students who knew that I was searching for a venue at Stony Brook to do meaningful community service. When I read more about The Andrew Goodman Foundation, and their vision for all college students, regardless of major, to become more civically engaged, I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing that vision to the Stony Brook campus,” Page recalls.
As a new campus partner, the Stony Brook Vote Everywhere team faced the challenge of creating an effective initiative on campus. By following the example of more established Vote Everywhere campus partners like Bard and Binghamton, the Stony Brook team strategically targeted first-year students for voter registration during mandated campus orientation sessions.
“Historically, voter registration had been offered to first-year students at new student orientation. However, staffing resources were not available to ensure students were successfully completing the voter registration process,” said Keating. “The introduction of Ambassadors not only ensured students were successfully completing the voter registration process, but the number of students who registered to vote increased as well.”
Over 15 orientation sessions, during a six-week period in the summer, Steven and Page led an effort that registered a staggering 1,694 students to vote. Their plan to register first-years, coupled with pure determination, established Stony Brook as the leader in student registration efforts among all of AGF’s Vote Everywhere campuses in the United States. “Steven and Page envisioned a campus community actively involved in the political process. They turned their passion into action, just like Andrew Goodman did during Freedom Summer 1964,” says Sylvia Golbin Goodman, Executive Director of the AGF. “It is not only their commitment to getting their peers registered to vote that made the difference, but it is their passion and how they’ve educated young people around them which has made this process more meaningful,” says Driscoll. “Stony Brook students are taking ownership of their right and responsibility to vote thanks to Steven and Page’s tireless work.”
By front-loading the voter registration component of the program, Steven and Page now had more time to devote to other activities during the school year. “We decided to bring on interns because it was clear our goals could not be reasonably achieved with just two people,” said Page. “With the introduction of interns in the spring of 2016, we set out to ensure voter registration was available in the lobby of our Student Activities Center at least twice per week, in addition to providing information for the Presidential Primary. Interns also helped us generate more ideas and a broader perspective on what can be improved on the Stony Brook campus. We hope to expand even further this year with an additional Ambassador, more interns, and a new volunteer system,” she added.
Steven, now a Stony Brook alumni, recognizes his Vote Everywhere work will live on long after he’s gone. “During my time at Stony Brook University, I have always been inspired to challenge myself and to reach for my maximum potential. There are many incredible moments to reflect upon–from exploring Antarctica to my three years of involvement with student government–but establishing Stony Brook University as a powerhouse for civic engagement is one of my proudest. We forged a partnership with The Andrew Goodman Foundation in order to make a positive difference in our community and to ensure that the voices of all Seawolves are heard. We have done that and more. I can only imagine what this partnership will accomplish in the years to come.”