Communication Connection

Friends of Com Newsletter

Events and Happenings

Students Lace Up to Vote

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

By Emily McLamb

Run to the Polls

It’s a 22-minute walk from Leutze Hall to Government Drive. The students in Dr. Brubaker’s Election Campaign Communication class knew the route well. With about 100 members of the UNCW community, they walked, ran and biked to the Board of Elections as part of their Run to the Polls event on Oct. 30. Once there, everyone voted on the issue Brubaker’s students spent all semester advertising: the 2014 Transportation Bond. If passed, the bond would fund several construction projects, including bike trails, sidewalks and road improvements, to alleviate traffic and provide safer travel throughout Wilmington.

In yearly surveys conducted by local government officials, residents have voiced their concerns about roadway congestion. The City Council took notice of this and formed a committee to identify the most problematic areas. The members proposed several improvements, one-quarter of which could be completely funded by the bond.

Familiar with Dr. Brubaker from her campaign work with Mayor Bill Saffo and recommended by Dr. Persuit, the City of Wilmington contacted Dr. Brubaker to help get UNCW students to the polls. She brought the campaign to her students, who helped coordinate Run to the Polls to coincide with the Transportation Bond’s proposed bike trails and sidewalks.

“In terms of collegiate civic engagement, to me, there wasn’t a more symbolic gesture than literally moving student voters to the polls,” said Dr. Brubaker.

Her class coordinated with city officials to organize the route to the Board of Elections. Students advertised on social media and set up tables on campus to speak with their peers about the bond’s potential to ease traffic near campus, like the key areas of Hurst Drive and Kerr Avenue. While one group of students registered voters, others reached out to local media to get the community involved.

According to Dylan Lee, who works for the City of Wilmington’s Communications Office and lectures for the Department of COM Studies, “The access on campus to the many campus groups, clubs and events was something hard to replicate without the help of the students.” Because of the students’ resources and hard work, the event, attended by the mayor and local candidates, garnered much attention and participation.

Mr. Lee credits Run to the Polls as a key factor in the passing of the Transportation Bond, which received 64.9 percent of the vote. With such a successful, high-profile event, Dr. Brubaker’s students had something to add to their resumes.

Run to the Polls is just one example of Dr. Brubaker’s efforts to give her students real-world experience. Many of her courses offer applied learning opportunities in which students take on clients and interact with the community in preparation for their careers.

“Courses developed for applied learning move from the realm of learning about something to learning to be something,” Brubaker said.

While the students in Election Campaign Communication got to be a campaign staff, many UNCW students got to be first-time voters. Historically, student turnout has been much lower than other demographics. Despite this, young voters have the potential to influence political change, just like in this vote for the Transportation Bond.

“If everyone at UNCW voted in every election, that would often be enough votes to carry the election. It is untapped potential,” said Mr. Lee.

This event effectively mobilized students to the polls and, consequently, encouraged more political participation within the Department of Communication Studies. So, according to Dr. Brubaker, students and faculty should keep their running shoes ready for the 22-minute walk of the next Run to the Polls.