Worcester State University has received a vote of confidence from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a national awards program that aims to increase democratic participation among college students.
WSU received the organization’s silver seal in recognition of achieving excellence in student voter engagement. The honor, presented at the first-ever ALL IN Challenge awards ceremony last fall in Washington, D.C., commends the school for achieving a student voting rate between 60 percent and 69 percent. The event recognizes colleges and universities committed  to increasing the number of college students who vote.
Director of the John J. Binienda Center for Civic Engagement Mark Wagner, PhD., said Worcester State is proud to receive this national award in recognition of the commitment of faculty, staff, and students to working together to increase civic participation. The center strives to encourage civic-minded students prepared to solve the country’s and the world’s most pressing challenges.
“The Binienda Center has been gently ramping up efforts in the areas of civic participation over the years, working with the League of Women Voters and the NAACP to highlight elections and voter issues,” Wagner said. “We regularly hold voter registration drives and have recently started candidate forums, which we will run up to the midterm elections.”
Students’ civic enthusiasm also is encouraged through less formal activities at Worcester State, such as a lively mealtime forum called “Pizza and Politics,” run by Assistant Professor of History and Political Science Anthony Dell’Aera, Ph.D.
Student participation in elections has increased in the past few years. A recent report, “Democracy Counts: A Report on U.S. College and University Student Voting” from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy in Higher Education, shows that between the 2012 presidential election, and the 2016 presidential election, student voting went from 45.1 percent of eligible voters in 2012 to 48.3 percent in 2016—a 7 percent improvement.
Worcester State’s data reveals a 63.2 percent student voting rate in 2016, up 7 percent from 2012.
WSU is committed to continued improvement in voter participation, Wagner said. “Given the civic recession, particularly with respect to voting rates, we see it as part of our mission to engage the campus in these activities. We want our students to be prepared to be active citizens in a thriving democracy.”
“I am proud to honor Worcester State University with an ALL IN Challenge Silver seal in recognition of their dedication, hard work, and achievement,” said Zaneeta E. Daver, director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “Worcester State is not only ensuring that a more representative population participates in our nation’s democracy, but is educating students to be civic-minded. They are an example to be emulated.”
More than 300 campuses, enrolling more than 4 million students, have joined the Challenge since its launch in summer 2016.