In preparation for Election Day, the Gephardt Institute and our campus partners mobilized efforts to register voters, educate voters, and ensure voters make their voices heard. Suffrage is at the core of U.S. democracy, but for the international student body of Washington University, civic engagement is still possible outside the ballot box. International students comprise more than 20% of the Washington University student population, so in order to civically empower more students in the 2020 election season, the Gephardt Institute partnered with international student services across the university to host pre- and post-election day civic education workshops.
Students and scholars from countries including China, Turkey, Venezuela, and Namibia gathered virtually for the first of a two-part series this October called “U.S. Elections 101” co-hosted by the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS). The workshop examined the Electoral College, the St. Louis City November ballot, and the structure of U.S. government. Fifty percent of participant respondents reported that they planned to increase engagement in U.S. political processes and encourage their network to engage in political processes as well. In the weeks following Election Day, a second session created the opportunity for international students and scholars to process the election outcomes together, inquire about the election certification procedures, and build civic engagement action goals.
Shixing Wang, a physics graduate student from China, commented after attending a workshop that he now recognizes that “democracy is not only ideals of the society, but also practical processes with rules that sometimes could be subtle.” By developing strong civic literacy participants are empowered to make their voices heard through ongoing civic action. Engage Democracy and the OISS will continue to collaborate to foster civic engagement in international students year-round with workshops that expand civic knowledge and skills.
Article by Rose Shapiro