Pellissippi State Community College has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus” as part of a national initiative led by nonpartisan organizations Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
The initiative recognizes colleges for planning and implementing practices that encouraged their students to register to vote and to vote in the 2020 elections and in the future. More than 230 campuses in 37 states and Washington, D.C., achieved the designation this year, and it is valid through December 2022.
Pellissippi State was one of six Tennessee colleges to earn the distinction – and the only community college in the state to do so. The other Voter Friendly Campus designations in Tennessee went to Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University and Tusculum University.
“Community and civic engagement is a core value of Pellissippi State,” said Matthew Spraker, director of Student Engagement and Leadership. “The office of Student Engagement and Leadership is committed to educating our students on their role as responsible citizens while providing opportunities to affect change.”
As part of Pellissippi State’s effort to be designated a Voter Friendly Campus, the college developed an action plan in July 2020 and created a civic engagement coalition. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that saw most Pellissippi State students taking classes remotely, the coalition pivoted to online opportunities to encourage informed and active participation in government.
Pellissippi State never supports or opposes candidates, political parties or political positions.
One significant accomplishment in 2020 was the implementation of the TurboVote online engagement tool, thanks to a mini-grant from Students Learn Students Vote. TurboVote tracks elections at all levels, guiding users through voter registration and requesting absentee or mail-in ballots, as well as sending text and email reminders about upcoming elections. This proved to be a successful tool for helping Pellissippi State students register to vote, Spraker said.
In addition to a civic engagement webpage on the Pellissippi State website and a robust voter registration campaign on social media, the college also was able to promote voter registration and TurboVote at socially distanced campus events including two drive-in movies and a drive-up car wash.
Pellissippi State went beyond voter registration information to help educate students about elections as well. For example, the college’s Student Engagement and Leadership office hosted a mock debate and discussion on constructive and critical debating on Zoom, as well as a Beyond the Protests interactive panel discussion about other ways to make a difference.
For more information about Pellissippi State’s civic engagement and volunteerism efforts, visit www.pstcc.edu/seal/civic. For more information about Voter Friendly Campus, visit www.voterfriendlycampus.org.