UM Voting Summit aims to ‘Educate, Inform and Inspire’

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The ongoing importance of voting and civic engagement is the focus for the 2022 University of Mississippi Voting Summit.

The theme for the March 25-26 event is “Buy In, Don’t Sit Out! Democracy, Voting and You!” A student-led initiative, the voting summit is organized and sponsored by the UM Andrew Goodman Foundation, the UM Society for Blacks in Political Studies and the Freedom Fellows with the Declaration of Independence Center for the Study of American Freedom.

Nancy Thomas, director of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, will deliver the keynote address at 6 p.m. Friday (March 25) in Bishop Hall.

“The 2022 University of Mississippi Voting Summit seeks to educate, inform and inspire the UM and LOU community around the value of voting and civic engagement,” said William Teer, assistant director of community engagement. “We all have a role to play in the democratic process, and it’s not just about voting during election years.

“Our hope is that those attending the summit will learn how to become civically involved in their communities while also learning more about important causes from our presentation experts.”

Breakout sessions focused on voting and civic causes will be led by campus and community organizations from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in Bishop Hall. Featured session presenters include:

  • League of Women Voters Oxford/North Mississippi
  • UM Voting Ambassadors
  • UM Andrew Goodman Foundation
  • Young Americans for Freedom
  • Associated Student Body
  • UM Declaration of Independence Center Freedom Fellows
  • UM Society for Blacks in Political Studies
  • Period@UM
  • UM Environmental Coalition
  • Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education

Free food – dinner at 6 p.m. Friday and light breakfast at 10 a.m. Saturday – will be provided for all who register. Sign up now here or at bit.ly/UMvotes22.

The summit was originally conceived by undergraduate students Katelyn Winstead and Caroline Leonard nearly two years ago. Winstead and Leonard had recently been named as campus ambassadors for the national Andrew Goodman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes voter education and youth leadership development in honor of the late civil rights advocate Andrew Goodman.

The duo’s ambassadorship kicked off with awareness efforts leading into the 2020 elections. Winstead and Leonard sought to educate the community through a series of blog posts that outlined the history and trends of redistricting. These efforts led to an online campaign that identified all voting districts in Lafayette County so Ole Miss students could be aware of their designated polling locations.

Winstead and Leonard even worked with campus partners to organize transportation from campus to voting polls across the community.

“The year 2021 allowed Winstead and Leonard the chance to dream big and envision larger, in-person events,” Teer said. “Conversations with Dr. Cade Smith, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement, and myself brought ideas to reality.

“I’m quite proud of the work they’ve done and want to give them the proper credit for being the original dreamers and drivers for this important event.”

Thomas, the keynote speaker, works through the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education to study higher education’s role in American democracy and support college student political learning and participation.

The institute’s signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, examines student voting rates, patterns and conditions. Through the study, nearly 1,200 U.S. colleges and universities receive tailored reports containing their students’ aggregate voting rates following each federal election.

Thomas’ work and scholarship interests include college student civic learning and participation in democracy, campus climates for political engagement, deliberative democracy, political equity and inclusion, and campus free speech and academic freedom.

For more information, contact Teer at wteer1@olemiss.edu.