Tara Newsom, the Director of St. Petersburg’s Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement (CCLCE), has spearheaded the university’s TurboVote partnership since 2013. As an influential and involved member of the St. Petersburg community, Tara was able to reach a wide variety of students and faculty to make St. Petersburg’s partnership with TurboVote a successful one.
Even before partnering with TurboVote, voter registration was an integral part of the CCLCE’s mission. Every year, the CCLCE would encourage students to register to vote by sending out emails and offering paper registration forms. However, with the help of TurboVote, Tara found that she was better able to reach her students on a platform that was more familiar and accessible.
A no-sweat IT integration for 44,000 students
St. Petersburg is an open-enrollment school, meaning that all 44,000 students commute to campus or opt to take classes online. As one might imagine, this makes it difficult to reach students through traditional tabling or on-the-ground voter registration. Tara viewed this challenge as an opportunity to get creative with her IT integration efforts.
Leveraging her relationships with the campus IT folks, Tara integrated TurboVote into St. Petersburg’s learning management site, which is where students can check class syllabi, post blogs for certain classes, and access course readings. Because it’s home to so many valuable resources, it is an area of high student traffic and an ideal place to add a link to the St. Petersburg co-branded TurboVote website. Once St. Petersburg implemented an IT integration, the campus skyrocketed to the top of the TurboVote signup leaderboard!
Engagement in the classroom (did I hear extra credit?)
In addition, Tara organized a series of class visits, in which she played a short video explaining TurboVote and asked students to visit the TurboVote site and get registered. She even convinced professors to offer their students extra credit for signing up with TurboVote!
Tara continues to explore innovative ways to raise awareness of TurboVote, as well as increase civic engagement on campus. She views St. Pete’s TurboVote partnership as a way to get students involved in the community, beyond voting in elections. In sum, TurboVote boosted student involvement in the community while also increasing excitement around student council forums, city hall meetings, and other events.
Plans for the future
St. Petersburg has big ideas for the fall, as the university plans to integrate TurboVote into their new student orientation. The CCLCE views this exciting development as a way to target students from the moment their experience with St. Petersburg begins, making sure they are registered to vote, notified of upcoming elections, and aware of events going on in the St. Petersburg community.
St. Petersburg’s success is noteworthy, as Tara had to rely almost exclusively on digital integration, rather than on-the-ground efforts to bring TurboVote to the campus community. St. Petersburg’s ongoing success with TurboVote demonstrates how, in instances in which a civic engagement center like the CCLCE is available, locating an implementer with strong and varied connections across campus is valuable for a strong and lasting TurboVote partnership.