Over 30 students, staff, faculty, and administrators from eight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) convened at Bread Loaf Campus for a weekend summit as part of the NESCAC Votes initiative. NESCAC Votes aims to tackle the issue of low college student voter turnout by advancing nonpartisan civic learning and voter participation on each of the 11 campuses. NESCAC campuses set a collective goal to increase the student voter turnout rate by at least 11 points across the 11 campuses in the 2020 general election, from an average of 53% to 64%.
Ashley Laux in Middlebury College’s Center for Community Engagement and Andrew Lardie in Bowdoin College’s McKeen Center for the Common Good along with the ALL IN Democracy Challenge coordinated a series of conference calls this fall for stakeholders across NESCAC campuses. They also co-coordinated the summit, which was designed to deepen relationships and share knowledge about electoral engagement across institutions. Tiffany Sargent, director of the Center for Community Engagement welcomed attendees at Bread Loaf. Tiffany said, “it is wonderful to join our NESCAC colleagues to share knowledge and best practices in support of civic action. Providing students with encouragement and opportunity to engage in democratic practices is fundamental to our shared liberal arts identity and helps foster the kinds of lifelong habits to which we all aspire.”
Campus teams spent 24 hours together building democratic action plans and sharing strategies for deepening civic learning on campuses with a focus on the 2020 presidential election. After returning from Bread Loaf, schools will finalize their action plans and submit to the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge in December 2019. Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, says initiatives like NESCAC Votes “focus collective energy on adopting data-driven practices and institutionalizing campus efforts to help students develop the skills needed to be active and informed participants in our democracy.” According to MiddVote student organization leader Nora Bayley ’21, the peer-to-peer components of the Summit were a highlight. Bayley shares, “I learned so much from our peers at the other NESCAC schools and came away with lots of exciting ideas for how to build up to the 2020 election.”
See more coverage of the summit at VT Digger .