PHOTO COURTESY OF LOGAN KIRKLAND/MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
Mississippi State University now holds the “Voter Friendly Campus” designation from the nation’s leading student affairs organization and the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project.
The designation recently was announced by NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. MSU was the only Mississippi university, and one of only two Southeastern Conference universities, to receive the honor. The Voter Friendly Campus program requires campuses to engage their student body and promote voter registration and voting as part of their institutional mission.
In 2018, MSU students and staff members led several voter registrations and voting initiatives leading up to last fall’s midterm elections. MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said these efforts increased students’ awareness of the voting process.
“Our students learned more about the importance of their engagement in the process and the value of every single vote,” Hyatt said. “It’s our hope their engagement here at MSU will extend to their lives after college, where our students will decide to run for public office, serve on community-wide boards and be invested in the civic life of their neighborhoods and communities.”
MSU and the university’s Student Association hosted several voter registration drives, which were followed by events to encourage students to vote on Election Day. A free “Wrap the Vote” concert was held the night before Election Day and the Student Association organized a student walk to polling stations to vote the following day. MSU Parking and Transit Services provided shuttles to and from polling locations on Election Day.
As president of the Mississippi Student Body Presidents’ Council, MSU Student Association President Mayah Emerson, a senior educational psychology major from Meridian, helped organize the #MyVoteMatters initiative among Mississippi’s public universities.
“It is imperative that students at Mississippi State, and students across the country, become engaged civically and know that their voices and votes matters,” Emerson said. “This year, the Student Association placed a large emphasis on getting that messaging across to our students and we couldn’t be more excited about being designated as a Voter Friendly Campus. This is a large leap forward, but our work is not done. The Student Association will continue its work encouraging students to be engaged citizens on their campus, in their community, and in this country.”
MSU’s Voter Friendly Campus designation is valid through December 2020. Campuses were evaluated in a process that included writing a campus plan for engaging student voters, facilitating voting engagement efforts and writing a final analysis of campus efforts.
“Institutionalizing voter engagement, registration, and turnout efforts on college campuses is no easy feat for institutions of higher learning, especially in today’s political climate wherein many communities are polarized,” said NASPA President Kevin Kruger. “With the second iteration of the Voter Friendly Campus program, we’ve learned that campuses that have been most successful in fostering a campus climate inclusive of democratic participation do so by intentionally including multiple facets of the institutions’ community in fostering the skills, knowledge, and dispositions supporting students’ civic agency.”