The Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning

I voted sticker on a person's finger by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

Talking About Civic Engagement Matters. 

Traditional-age college students are young, have little or no history of voting, and are residentially mobile, which works against their rates of voter registration and voter turnout. Studies show that encouragement from faculty, staff, and other students makes a significant difference in their student registration and turnout (Bennion and Nickerson, 2016; DellaVigna, List, Malmendier & Rao, 2016; Gerber and Rogers, 2009). The University of Michigan’s Big Ten Voting Challenge and civic engagement efforts helped to increase student midterm election turnout from 14.3% (2014) to 41.0% (2018), but that is well short of full engagement and we have more work to do.

Encouraging students to engage in the democratic process is a non-partisan activity. 

What is allowable as a state employee? 

  • Inform students of the upcoming election
  • Share resources for voter registration
  • Make students aware of which positions and initiatives will be on the ballot, without endorsing a particular candidate or position
  • Encourage international students to research candidates and ballot measures, and to talk with their peers who are eligible
  • Review University guidelines

To talk with a Ginsberg staff member on incorporating civic engagement into your courses or research, please complete the Support Request Form or contact us at Ginsberg.engage@umich.edu


How do we define civic and democratic engagement? 

Civic engagement is contributing and working to make a difference in the public (or civic) life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and commitment to make that difference. Democratic engagement is the practice of engaged citizenship (defined as membership in a community) through democratic mechanisms and principles. This overview offers more information and resources. 

How can you support your students’ civic engagement? 

Be aware of key dates for Election Day

Election Day is November 3, 2020 (For U.S. Presidential, local, state and federal)

  • After October 19th, students need to register to vote in person WITH proof of residency at a Secretary of State branch or with the local clerk. 
  • November 2, 2020: In person absentee ballot deadline
  • Due to a recent ruling, we recommend dropping off ballots at a ballot box
  • Additional voter information available at govote.umich.edu

Include information about voting and civic engagement in your syllabus

  • Consider the timing of exams on election days.
  • Include framing language in your syllabus, such as:

    In a democracy, a government is chosen by voting to elect representatives to make policy and enforce laws while representing the citizens. The University of Michigan encourages eligible students to exercise their right to vote, and students of all citizenship backgrounds to actively engage in issues of public concern. When more people participate, a broader array of perspectives is represented in policies and laws that impact our country, society, and the world. You can register to vote at govote.umich.edu.

Share voting resources with your students

University of Michigan students hail from all over the world, and while students who are U.S. citizens are eligible to vote in Michigan, many will choose to vote in their home state.

Set up a voting kiosk in your department. 

Consider including the following materials for a physical (or virtual) kiosk:  

For those interested in digging deeper...

We offer additional tools and strategies to integrate civic engagement into your work with students, such as:

  • Connecting course content to policy issues
  • Civic learning activities
  • Encouraging dialogue and discussion