Gephardt News St. Louis Fellowship Program WashU Votes

Gephardt staff share institute’s best practices with colleagues around nation

Members of the Gephardt Institute’s professional and student fellows team and WashU Votes traveled to Boston last month for the annual Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement meeting, where they also presented to representatives of colleges and universities across the country on how the Gephardt Institute inspires students to get involved. From left to right: Sophie Jeffers, Elijah Beal, Alannah Glickman, Amelia Letson, Sam Babb, Sophie Devincenti, and Lara Caldie. 

This month, a group of Gephardt Institute staff and WashU Votes leadership traveled to Boston, Mass. for the annual Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (CLDE).  

The annual conference is hosted by NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and is designed to convene diverse stakeholders committed to advancing democracy through student preparedness for engaged citizenship. 

Student affairs professionals, students, and other campus leaders from higher education institutions around the country gathered for interactive workshops, roundtable discussions, and plenary sessions around civic work and strategy. The Gephardt Institute presented one such session, “When Students Lead: Supporting and Investing in Pathways for Civic Engagement,” to a full room of 81 attendees.  

“Our presentation was a deep dive into Gephardt’s student pathways model, and how we aim to empower students to design their own civic journeys during their time at WashU. We shared the learning goals behind our programs, as well as the challenges we’ve faced and what we saw as the successes,” said Alannah Glickman, Associate Director for Civic Engagement. 

“I really appreciated having the opportunity to share some of my work with practitioners from across a range of higher education contexts,” said Elijah Beal, Graduate Assistant for Student Civic Learning. “It was also empowering to see and hear that the Gephardt Institute is a thought leader in this field. What we do here at WashU not only impacts our students, but it impacts similar civic and community engagement offices across the country that are looking to our values and place-based programming for inspiration.” 

In addition to sharing their work, Gephardt team members attended various sessions to learn from our peers in this field. “A Public Act of Love: Re-imagining Community-Campus Partnerships to Strengthen Democracy” was one memorable workshop offered by the University of San Francisco, which drew on scholarship and inspiration by intersectional feminist movements to integrate the work of community and civic engagement in classrooms and fellowship programs. 

“I was particularly inspired by the folks at USF. They had us practice the tool of ‘radical imagining’ to envision how our communities and work could look different when centering justice,” said Student Engagement Specialist Sophie Devincenti. 

In addition to conference sessions, the team learned from other universities, leading to many informative conversations about our political context and ideation around building voter engagement coalitions. Students from Missouri State University met with WashU Votes and Gephardt associate directors to learn how they can support each other within their civic and voter engagement efforts.   

“I thoroughly enjoyed meeting community members from other universities who share our interest in voter accessibility, equitability, and engagement,” said WashU Votes Co-Chair Amelia Letson. “I left the conference with ideas for strengthening our efforts on campus and excitement for another year of WashU Votes!”