Committee creates election resource guide for faculty

In addition to O’Hara, the Civic Engagement subcommittee includes Catherine Rios, associate professor of communications and humanities, Penn State Harrisburg; Gail Good, associate teaching professor of agriculture, Penn State Altoona; and Michele Ramsay, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, Penn State Berks.

Organizers of the voting resource guide said it matched the mission of the Teach Engagement website to engage students civically, with the objective of fostering social responsibility and ethical reasoning.

“Our faculty take pride in readying students for their futures as productive citizens – but their futures are happening now,” O’Hara said. “Students are already participating in their civic lives, and faculty can play a role in encouraging them to apply their developing knowledge and skill sets to exercising their franchise. Facilitating that connection between their formal education and their role as citizens is vital for a thriving democracy. ”

In addition to helping students to engage in civic life, O’Hara also said it can be tricky for students to register to vote, and not all students will understand their options for registration.

“I worked voter protection at the campus polling location in 2020 and saw some really sad cases of students not being able to vote because something went wrong with a mail-in ballot,” O’Hara said. “Or they thought that all Penn State students could vote on campus because they were Penn State students, not because they registered at their college address. Out-of-state students frequently don’t know that they can register to vote at their college address under Pennsylvania law. We hope our voting resources address these common misconceptions and help students register and vote successfully. ”

Together with another campus group, the Civic Engagement subcommittee workshopped registration sessions in actual classes and gathered feedback from PSU Votes and Center County staff. In these workshops, organizers were able to identify common questions students ask and the typical mistakes they make when filling out registration forms, like mixing up physical and mailing addresses for those living in residence halls.

Also contributing to the project were Kate Hynes, program coordinator, College of Health and Human Development; and Tim Balliet, director of the Center for Character, Conscience and Public Purpose.

Other election resources available

The Schreyer Institute for Teaching has released a brief guide to help instructors teach through the election. It offers information specific to pre- and post-election considerations, such as questions about voting, attendance policies related to voting, dealing with difficulty dialogues and maintaining an inclusive classroom.

The Office for Student Affairs released a guide earlier in the fall semester with numerous resources geared toward Penn State Students. Students can also visit PSU Votes to learn more about the upcoming election.

The Office for General Education is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education.

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