SIUE Faculty Research Fellow Aims to Boost Student Voter Engagement
EDWARDSVILLE - How is voting like driving a car? Southern Illinois University Edwardsville faculty research fellow Jacob I. Wilson has the answer, and he’s using it as the basis for building civic engagement among student voters.
“Voting, like driving a car, is a learned behavior,” Wilson explained. “You can’t give a key to someone who’s never driven before, and expect them to know the rules of the road and feel comfortable behind the wheel. Similarly, we can’t expect new voters to understand confusing election deadlines and laws overnight, without providing them the proper tools and information they need to participate in the political system.”
Wilson’s faculty research fellowship is hosted by the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior’s College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) graduate program. He will remain on campus through the 2020-21 academic year to facilitate nonpartisan voter engagement programs through the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP), which is funded by an Ohio Campus Compact grant.
“I’m excited for the energy and commitment to teaching and research that Jacob will bring to our CSPA program community, which includes faculty, students and site supervisors,” said CSPA Program Director Pietro Sasso, PhD, assistant professor. “He will fully engage in supervised teaching and research with our faculty to produce scholarship in this area. His research regarding civic engagement and higher education, particularly related to student voter engagement, is a timely topic that will provide internship and research opportunities for our students.”
Wilson is a doctoral candidate in higher education at the University of Arizona, where he researches student voting efforts on college campuses, organizational change and social movements.
He plans to work with CSPA students to register, educate and empower their peers and the students with whom they work across campus to achieve full participation in the 2020 elections. According to Wilson, many SIUE students will be voting for the first time in 2020, which requires learning how to navigate the “often complex, bureaucratic and antiquated election system.”
“Students face many barriers to voting, and when we talk about those barriers and provide students with knowledge and resources, we can build an inclusive democracy that represents the diversity of our campus, region, state and country,” Wilson noted. “I am excited to work with my new colleagues at SIUE to empower students and share with them a simple, profound message: Your Vote Matters.”
Research opportunities will also be pursued with Wilson working in collaboration with Sasso, CSPA Assistant Professor J.T. Snipes, PhD, and graduate students. Topics may include attempts to better understand the decision-making process that students undergo when determining whether or not to participate in elections, such as the upcoming 2020 primary and general elections.
“In addition to the grant that funds Wilson’s position, the CSPA program is hosting a graduate assistant (GA) for civic learning and election engagement,” Sasso said. “The GA, Michelle Black, will support campuses in the Greater St. Louis region with developing and implementing practices that empower students to vote. There will also be practicum opportunities for CSPA graduate students who are interested in learning how to integrate civic learning and election engagement practices into a wide range of student affairs departments and positions.”
Wilson is also assisting in organizing the Campus and Community Voter Engagement Summit for Illinois and Missouri. It will be held Thursday, Sept. 12 at Washington University in St. Louis. SIUE is among 14 participating bi-state college and universities.
The SIUE School of Education, Health and Human Behavior prepares students in a wide range of fields including community and public health, exercise science, nutrition, instructional technology, psychology, speech-language pathology and audiology, educational administration, and teaching. Faculty members engage in leading-edge research, which enhances teaching and enriches the educational experience. The School supports the community through on-campus clinics, outreach to children and families, and a focused commitment to enhancing individual lives across the region.