MACON – Mercer University senior Joey Wozniak will co-present a plan to increase student voter turnout as a panelist at the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Conference March 22 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Wozniak, an economics and political science double-major from Dublin, is the first Mercer student to present at the annual conference, which serves as the premier gathering for civic engagement professionals in the U.S.
He will be one of three panelists for a discussion titled “Accelerating Involvement: From Higher Education to Lifetime Engagement,” which will also feature Michael Norris, director of member services for Florida Campus Compact, and Sam Novey, executive director of the National Student Voter Challenge.
“Sam, Mike and I have experience leveraging our partnerships at the national, state and local level, respectively, to increase student voter turnout. During the presentation, we will discuss voter engagement case studies that we've put into practice and announce the launch of 'SoCon Votes' as a result of these past partnerships,” said Wozniak.
The panel will discuss how Mercer and Campus Compact, working with Democracy Works and the Foundation for Civic Leadership, have developed a framework and support for institutions to fulfill their potential to play a major role in solving one of democracy's biggest problems – low and unequal participation that leads to low levels of engagement beyond college.
“SoCon Votes,” a regionally focused, athletic-style voter engagement competition, developed by Wozniak and underwritten with a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, will be showcased as an example of how institutions can rebuild American democracy. He recently presented his plan to the Southern Conference's member schools, and thus far, nine of the 10 have elected to participate.
The competition is the first project in an NCAA Division I athletic conference to capitalize on existing rivalries among schools to raise student voting engagement.
“'SoCon Votes' is turning voter engagement into a sport,” said Wozniak. “Each institution is required to form a team among students, staff and professors that will compete in four rounds designed to raise voter engagement.”
In addition to his work with “SoCon Votes,” Wozniak recruited more than 100 student leaders to participate in Mercer's second annual Civic Engagement Symposium, an evening last November dedicated to discussing the problem of voter turnout among millennials led by prominent national speakers such as Novey, Matt Tharp, partner support lead for Democracy Works, and Matt Lewis, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor at Emory University.
Wozniak also presented a plan to increase student voter turnout, titled “Democratic Engagement: A Blueprint to Engage Students in Our Democracy,” at last September's Visionary Student Panel hosted by the University's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Office. He was recognized as a “Top Performer,” and earned funding from the office to implement the project.
“Joey entered the University as a Mercer Service Scholar, and he is a stellar example of the leadership skills and civic engagement that this track in the Honors Program fosters,” said Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, senior vice provost for service learning.
“In addition to developing the 'SoCon Votes' initiative, he also was tapped by the Macon-Bibb County mayor's office as assistant program director for the Macon chapter of the Georgia Civic Awareness Program for Students that educates a cohort of high school students about government and civic affairs. His presenting at Campus Compact is the culmination of his civic activism on campus and in the community. He is a great ambassador for the Service Scholars program and for Mercer.”