Tag Archive for civic engagement
by Olivia Drake •
Last March, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to plague the United States, Dr. Amy Fogelman ’97 became engrossed in the country’s lack of understanding about the virus, and even more so in the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.
“At certain hospitals in Massachusetts masks were required, but in others, physicians were told that they were not allowed to wear masks, even if they personally supplied them, because administrators were afraid that the masks would ‘scare’ the patients,” Fogelman recalls. “I watched as my colleagues on social media shared their fears for their lives, and their patients’ lives, but many did not feel empowered to speak up and feared for their jobs if they did.”
As the owner of her own medico-legal consulting firm, Fogelman felt an obligation to speak up for colleagues who couldn’t. So she joined the grassroots, non-partisan, physician-led advocacy group COVID-19 Action Coalition (COVAC-MA) to help advocate for public health measures that will reduce the spread of the virus and save lives. COVAC-MA, a 501c4 nonprofit entity, is comprised of Massachusetts physicians from diverse specialties and employment settings, students, and civic, community, and business leaders working to advocate for urgent government, business, and community actions.
by Olivia Drake •
This summer, 16 students will promote democracy and broaden their engagement with the public sphere through Wesleyan’s Engage 2020 Initiative (E2020) Fund.
The initiative is a comprehensive university effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education. Wesleyan’s Civic Action Plan sets goals for building civic preparedness among students, faculty, and staff, and for enhancing the University’s role in public life.
Summer E2020 Fund recipients receive grants to support costs associated with lodging, meals, computer software, project supplies, and phone and internet services. In addition, participants enroll in the quarter-credit course CSPL 494, Internship: Elections, which requires students to participate with an electoral process for at least 40 hours, offer structured reflection, and complete a final paper.
To date, 33 students have received one of Wesleyan’s 40 E2020 grants during the fall, spring, and summer. The summer grantees will begin their work in July.
The Summer E2020 Initiative Fund recipients and their projects are described below.
Gender and sexuality studies major Leslie Caratachea ’22 will use her bilingual skills to lead a “voting squad” to help members of the Latinx community register to vote through her project When We All Vote.
“Through When We All Vote, I hope I can improve my rural Latinx community’s voting turnout, and help my community voice their opinion. I hope that through this volunteer work I am able to learn how to provide others with resources on how to vote . . . and grow more as a community leader and as a person.”
Anna Ribeiro ’23 will work with Dianne Morales on her New York City mayoral election, helping with fundraising, research, and outreach. “As a first-generation, low-income student who is also the daughter of immigrants, I find Dianne’s efforts [in] becoming the first female mayor of NYC to not only be admirable but also [an inspiration to] me to help elevate her cause,” Ribeiro said. “I think that, as a direct result of [involving] myself in campaign work, whether it be fortifying my fundraising skills or brushing up on my outreach, this internship will teach me a lot about the inner workings of a campaign, in particular of a local election. I hope that through my work in my campaign, I can network with individuals who are also passionate about radical reformation in New York City politics, as well as learn new skills and knowledge about the workings of local government . . . and bring that knowledge back to Wesleyan, not only to educate my fellow peers but also to see if I can implement my newfound knowledge and skills to local politics in Middletown to help support our community.”
by Editorial Staff •
Wesleyan University will hold its 188th Commencement ceremony virtually at noon EDT on Sunday, May 24.
The virtual proceedings will be led by President Michael Roth ’78 and will include remarks from award-winning author and Commencement speaker Jacqueline Woodson, pastor and social justice advocate Rev. Dr. William Joseph Barber II, and accomplished actor and political activist Bradley Whitford ’81, all of whom will receive honorary degrees from the University. The recipients were selected for their significant contributions to civic life in the United States, including the example they set in spurring others to productive dialogue and action and in keeping with Wesleyan’s recently-launched Engage 2020 initiative, a comprehensive effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.
by Olivia Drake •
In preparation for National Vote By Mail Day on May 23, two Wesleyan alumni are pushing for a nonpartisan movement to make it possible for everyone in the United States to safely vote by mail in November.
To date, only Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington offer vote-by-mail systems, while another 29 states and Washington, D.C., provide mail-in ballots at a voter’s request.
“Americans shouldn’t have to risk their health to vote,” said Avi Stopper ’01, founder and lead organizer of the web-based project Vote 2020 By Mail.
Through Vote 2020 By Mail, Stopper is building a movement to persuade federal, state, and local governments to incorporate vote-by-mail processes.
“Seventy-eight percent of Americans want to be able to vote by mail, yet the only way we’re going to get it for everyone is if we make our voices heard,” Stopper said. “We believe that a massive demand from the public is the way to make this a reality.”
Based in Colorado, “where we have the gold standard of vote-by-mail systems,” Stopper applauds the efforts of the five committed states that “have proven that universal vote-by-mail is safe, secure, and doesn’t favor one political party over another.”
And he hopes the pandemic necessitates that this be standard in all states.
“Filling out a ballot at the kitchen table while drinking a cup of coffee, as we do in Colorado, is amazing,” he said.
In a May 8 Bloomberg Law article titled, “INSIGHT: Voting By Mail in November—It’s Not a Matter of if, But How,” co-author Evan Glassman ’87, P’24, a commercial litigation partner for Steptoe & Johnson LLP in New York City, says that ensuring voter access to online ballot boxes just means a slight adjustment in the current rules.
Glassman suggested that states set deadlines for the return of mail-in ballots; pre-pay the postage costs for returning the ballots; create secure drop-off or drive-by locations where voters could drop off their ballots; and eliminate or adjust ID or witness and notarization requirements for mail-in ballots.
None of these efforts “would compromise election integrity,” he wrote.
Whether or not states allow online voting, both Stopper and Glassman stressed the importance of continuing in-person voting options for those who are unable to access vote-by-mail.
“While it may appear to be beneficial during a time of pandemic, closing polling places can lead to long lines, which may increase health risks, and could disenfranchise voters,” Glassman said. “These types of actions lend themselves to partisan abuse and gain, and should be resisted.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Shortly after returning home to New York City this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, Walker Brandt ’22 was out for a walk near the Hudson River when he caught a glimpse of yellow tape in front of Brookdale, the senior living facility that had previously been his grandmother’s home. A sign on the sliding doors read, “No in-person visits are allowed at this time.”
Brandt immediately appreciated the precautions the facility was taking to keep its residents safe, but also wondered what the seniors’ social lives would look like without visitors. With the suspension of in-person visitors also came a decision to halt all interpersonal activities within the senior home.
“These precautions underline the obstacles seniors are facing with limited technology compatibility and without platforms to socialize remotely,” said Brandt. “I realized the next couple of months are going to be especially lonely for them.”
by Katie Aberbach •
Associate Professor of Government Logan Dancey foresees many important opportunities for students to get involved and make a difference with upcoming local elections this fall—and the Engage 2020 (E2020 initiative) will be a prime vehicle for that work.
Dancey recently gave a presentation via Zoom video webinar to Wesleyan faculty and staff about his research on American electoral politics and his work with students on this topic. Featured as part of the regular Staff Luncheon series, Dancey’s talk was titled “Student-Centered Elections Research: From the Middletown Mayoral Race to E2020.”
by Olivia Drake •
Katja Kolcio, chair and associate professor of dance, recently joined other scholars and Ukrainian officials to speak on topics concerning veterans issues and the democratization of civil society in Ukraine during the current war on the border between Ukraine and Russia.
The event, titled “Heroes of Liberty: Enhancing Well-Being, Resilience, and Civic Engagement of Ukrainian Veterans,” took place at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on March 11. (The center closed on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Kolcio, who also is an associate professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, presented her research on “Recurrent Inter-Generational Trauma in the Current State of War,” based on five years of work and research in Ukraine on the role of physical movement practice in response to trauma. Her research began working with families and communities and in civic settings. More recently, she has worked directly with the National Guard and active soldiers in the Armed Forces, as well as veterans.
by Olivia Drake •
Although Mitchell Motlagh ’20 doesn’t agree with every proposal pitched by former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, he respects her for expressing topics in a clear, intelligent manner and offering solutions to problems.
“Between her ability to articulate thoughtful policy changes and my desire to learn more about rural communities and how they have been affected by contemporary policy changes, I decided that I had to volunteer for Warren in a rural area,” Motlagh said.
Motlagh, a College of Social Studies major, was one of 16 Wesleyan students who devoted their winter break to support voter registration, participate in political campaigns, and work with advocacy groups as part of the Wesleyan Engage 2020 (E2020) initiative. E2020 is a comprehensive university effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.
Motlagh spent his time in the small, northern town of Berlin, N.H., where he spoke with more than 500 voters via phone banking, canvassing, and interacting via meetings held in the office or community gatherings.
“Not every interaction was pleasant, but all of them helped provide color into the community that I was living in,” he said.
by Olivia Drake •
On March 2, three student-run enterprises received $5,000 seed grants from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE). The unrestricted funding is accompanied with training, advising, mentoring, incubator workspace, and other resources from the Patricelli Center.
These $5,000 awards are intended to fund the launch or early-stage growth of a social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Projects or ventures must address a social problem; be sustainable, scalable, and/or replicable; and have a potential for impact. Entries can be for-profit, nonprofit, hybrid, or have no legal structure.
On Feb. 28, six finalists pitched their ventures to judges and members of the Board of Trustees.
The 2020 PCSE Seed Grant winners include:
- Mental Wealth Consulting by Inayah Bashir ’20;
- Opioid Harm Reduction and Education Initiative by Livia Cox ’22 and Nick Wells ’20; and
- Narratio by Ahmed Badr ‘20, Edward Grattan, Brice Nordquist, and Gemma Cooper-Novack. (Read a Wesleyan University Magazine article on Narratio online here.)
Other finalists include:
- ONA by Ona Hauert ’20;
- Pather Education Development Initiative by Kyllian Pather ’20; and
- Sustainable Surfing Products by William Huestis ’22 and Michael Eustace ’22.
Photos of the finalist pitches are below. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Editorial Staff •
Over winter break, 16 students traveled to a variety of locations around the United States to support voter registration, participate in political campaigns, and work with advocacy groups as part of the Wesleyan Engage 2020 (E2020) initiative. E2020 is a comprehensive university effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.
On Feb. 19, students gathered in Allbritton Hall to share their reflections on their winter session E2020 experiences. Some sought to educate young people about the electoral process and mobilize them to vote; others worked on issues such as immigration, criminal justice reform, housing justice, and reproductive rights.
Students wishing to volunteer in the public sphere over academic breaks may apply to the E2020 Fund for support for associated transportation and living expenses. Students awarded support, subsequently enroll in CSPL 494—a quarter-credit course that involves orientation, structured reflection, and a final paper.
Photos and information on the students’ winter break E2020 experiences are below. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Lauren Rubenstein •
The first cohort of students participating in the Wesleyan Engage 2020 (E2020) initiative dedicated their winter breaks to working for voter registration and issues advocacy groups, as well as for a range of candidates for presidential, congressional, and local offices.
The 16 students participating over winter break were stationed in states as far-flung as Georgia and Alaska, New York and Arizona. Wesleyan awarded over $20,000 to assist with participants’ living and travel expenses while they conducted this work.
Many students chose to work with organizations advocating for particular issues, including criminal justice reform, housing justice, reproductive rights, and immigration.
Others focused their efforts on voter engagement and registration. Perri Easley ’23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., and at the Morris County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America to educate young people about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the US Census, the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. Voter registration drives were held at both events for high school students who are of eligible age to register to vote.