Piedmont Virginia Community College: A Model for Electoral Engagement
This past October, Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) was presented with the “Best Action Plan” Champion Award along with a Silver Seal for campuses with 60-69% voter participation rates by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. The award were presented by TDC’s own Verdis Robinson at the awards ceremony which took place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. PVCC’s electoral engagement action plans for both 2016 and 2017 also showcases their truly remarkable efforts of furthering voter engagement on campus through detailed research, study, and strong partnerships.
PVCC’s 2016 voter registration efforts resulted in 322 students registered through their partnership with TurboVote, an application that helps with everything from absentee ballot requests to keeping up with elections. Along with Virginia 21, an advocacy organization dedicated to young voters, and various other organizations, PVCC students from every discipline and clubs collaborated on projects to register and educate voters. With one such project called the “Non-Partisan Voter Guide,” journalism and government students worked together to come up with strategies to engage other students on why and how to vote.
PVCC’s efforts also featured a variety of campaigns to aid in voter awareness and education. These campaigns included a Constitution Day celebration on September 19th designed for providing students with entertaining constitutional education, and a “Free Speech Week” in October which featured a mock presidential debate planned by PVCC political science students. Virginia 21 and the PVCC Math Club also teamed up to host “Electoral College 101,” an interactive series of exercises centered around the primary function of and debated about the Electoral College.
In PVCC’s 2016 report, they remarked on one of their largest barriers before the 2016 election was “..fully engaging the faculty and staff.” However, after the 2016, it began to change. Even with this lack of broad support initially, the electoral engagement efforts on campus were a resounding success. PVCC had renewed its voter engagement plans for 2017 hoping to match the success of the previous year.
Lead by Dr. Connie Jorgensen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at PVCC, the voter engagement plan continued to encourage students to be politically engaged. Dr. Jorgensen is the TDC Campus Coordinator for PVCC also serving on TDC’s inaugural Campus Coordinator Advisory Council, and because of her leadership, she was named PVCC’s “Faculty of the Month” for September 2017.
Efforts this past month focused on the elections of the entire House of Delegates, a new Governor, and a new Attorney General, along with various other Virginia elections. However, their efforts were informed by results from The Democracy Commitment’s Civic Outcomes Study Survey along with the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSVLE) report. PVCC represents everything we here at TDC hope to enable in community colleges across the country for years to come.