This summer and fall CVP is writing profiles of colleges and universities and their efforts to educate students about voter registration, casting a ballot and developing democratic engagement. These campuses are a part of the Voter Friendly Campus designation project offered by CVP and NASPA.
This election year will be an exciting one for University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL). They have been working over the summer planning election-specific activities for students that will begin almost as soon as they arrive on campus. Throughout the fall semester, there will be voter registration drives held by members of the League of Women Voters and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a nonpartisan and nonprofit student lobbying organization made up of students enrolled in any University of Missouri campus. Having organizations with no political affiliation conduct voter registration makes it more likely that students from a variety of political perspectives will be encouraged to register. These two groups will work together to have several registration drives leading up to the general election.
Once students are registered, the university hosts programs that will help the students gain the information needed to make informed choices at the polls. During the last calendar year, UMSL hosted debate watches for each major political party. They encouraged attendance from their own students and students from local St. Louis high schools, who are likely to attend UMSL in the future. Engaging students early helps to put them on a path to lifelong civic engagement. UMSL has developed its own programs to complement the watch parties. The University Program Board hosts “Lunch and Learns.” Each “Lunch and Learn” focuses on a specific topic that would interest young people such as discussing ghost-hunting to providing tips on how to effectively network.
University of Missouri-St. Louis is fairly young at only 53 years old, formed after a push from the community to fill a void in higher-education in the St. Louis area. Just decades after forming, UMSL has filled this void and expanded its role to provide resources for the community responsible for its inception.