by Evan Thibodeau - Harvey Hall News Bureau
University of Wisconsin-Stout’s “Rock the Vote” election day campaign helped break down barriers for students to increase voter turnout and civic engagement on campus and in the Menomonie area on Nov. 8.
Stout student engagement coordinator Jessica Kielcheski planned and coordinated the election day Rock the Vote events in the Merle-Price Commons and the Memorial Student Center.
The events, partnered with the Stout Student Association, consisted of information booths run by students and community members on and before election day. In the weeks before the election, Kielcheski coordinated the “60 Seconds of Civics'' series. These discussion-based booths in common areas around campus throughout the fall semester encourage students to engage in a variety of civic engagement topics in the community.
Addie Abrahamson, one of the Rock the Vote booth workers, is a junior at UW-Stout and was hired by the Stout Student Association as a Voter Outreach Assistant.
“I think that there is a lack of access to information for many students on campus,” Abrahamson said when discussing common obstacles that stop students from voting.
“I feel like a lot of students come up with great questions that are relatively easy to answer, so just having a table out here and having a welcoming environment for those questions can help encourage them and show how easy it really is,” Abrahamson said.
In addition to the Rock the Vote events, other community members were finding ways to get involved on campus.
Abe Smith, a member of the School Board of the School District of the Menomonie Area, is UW-Stout faculty and a resident in the Town of Menomonie. Stationed outside of the HKMC dorm building on election day, he asked passing students if they had plans to vote and provided additional information to assist them.
“One of the most important things is letting students know that they can vote here in the first place,” Smith said. “Many students think that because they’re not from here, that they’re not part of the community. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Regarding common obstacles preventing students from voting, Smith said “It’s like filing your own taxes or buying insurance; no one tells you what to do.”
Students like Abrahamson feel that they can help make a difference in empowering the student voters on campus. “Most people don’t think that the information is as accessible as it is,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty, students, and community members, too,” Abrahamson said. “People love to hear that students are interested in bettering their communities.”
To find out more about voting on the UW-Stout campus, visit www.uwstout.edu/voting-information.