Only about two out of every five eligible Clemson University students voted in the 2018 midterm elections. A class of Clemson University Honors College students developed some social media tools to help change that leading up to November’s midterms.
Students taking a first-year Honors seminar on the role of citizenship in a democracy used voting research to create infographics encouraging their fellow students to vote, with plans to share them widely across campus. Their goal is to encourage their fellow students to make their voices heard next month and increase the number of students who exercise their right to vote.
The assignment was intended to help students become more civically engaged citizens, said Honors instructor and academic development liaison Leslie Lewis.
“Instead of just learning about the importance of voting for themselves, the students designed and created voting infographics with Clemson students as the intended audience,” said Lewis. “Both the Honors College and Clemson Votes expressed an interest in posting some of the infographics to their social media, so this was a way for the students to be more civically engaged citizens by trying to encourage and inspire their peers to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.”
Voting Participation on Campus
Clemson students tend to vote more on average when compared to their counterparts in other colleges. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), about 72% of Clemson students voted in 2020, for example, compared with 66% of college students nationwide.
Voting participation, however, tends to fall in every demographic during midterms.
Rangeley Turner, a first-year student majoring in history, said that the class’s in-depth readings on citizenship and voting helped him understand that a voter’s voice really does matter and participation is vital, regardless of when you’re voting.
“Voting is so important because it is a way for your voice to be heard about issues you care about,” said Turner. “This seminar has made me understand that voting is an important foundation to our democracy.”
Several of the students used statistics gathered from the NSLVE reports on Clemson, which they studied in class, to create their infographics. Creating infographics was also something few of them had done before and, for many, involved learning a new software program.
Turner said he went into the process of creating his infographic with an open mind. He decided to focus his infographic on the voice of the voter.
“I focused on voting being a foundational, current issue and emphasizing the voice of the voter because those are some of the key concepts we talk about in this seminar,” said Turner. “I thought this would be the best information to convince people to vote.”
According to Bridget Trogden, Associate Dean in the Division of Undergraduate Studies and co-lead on Clemson Votes, research shows that college students know they should vote and are interested. Still, sometimes they do not understand the mechanics of voting, how to find accurate information, or know how issues on the ballot affect their lives and primary concerns.
“Having more in-class assignments and engaging opportunities to become educated voters is much needed, and this strategy is a key component of our campus’s Clemson Votes action plan, said Trogden. “I am glad that Dr. Lewis took on this project and I am proud of the materials that the students produced.”
Learning About Effecting Change
Sarah Winslow, Senior Associate Director of the Honors College, feels Lewis’s class is an excellent example of the Honors College’s focus on student engagement and applied learning.
“Honors seminars like this allow Honors students to explore complex topics and think about effecting change in their communities, beginning in their first semester on campus,” said Winslow. “I am excited to witness the impact of this project.”
Lewis said she was impressed with her students’ abilities to grasp the topic and learn how to use a new software while also creating quality infographics that have the potential to engage their fellow students.
“Honors students tend to be very creative, so I expected some nice infographics. I was impressed, however, with just how nice they were – from both a content and design aspect,” said Lewis. “I thought the students did a great job with this assignment, and I am excited to see some of their infographics shared on social media. If they help encourage other Clemson students to vote, that would be really awesome!”
See the students’ infographics:
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