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Watson College News

OSLE and OCEAL Receive Democracy Innovation Grant

Saturday, September 04, 2021

The Office of Student Leadership and Engagement (OSLE) and (Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning (OCEAL) were awarded the 2021-22 Democracy Never Sleeps Democracy Innovation Grant from North Carolina Campus Compact. The $5,000 grant, focused on promoting civic and democratic engagement beyond elections, was awarded to only two North Carolina Institutions.

The grant will fund two new initiatives related to OSLE’s civic and democratic engagement for campus: an asynchronous Canvas course and further development of a student voter coalition at UNCW.

The Canvas course will provide materials to faculty and staff seeking to provide information to students on voter registration, voter education, freedom of expression, activism for social change and other civic engagement topics. Modules can be imported into courses on campus or utilized in student trainings. The course will also support the training and onboarding of student members of the UNCW Votes Coalition set to launch in November. The Coalition expands the work of UNCW Votes, the existing team of student leaders in OSLE providing workshops, voter registration drives and election programming.

Jaime Russell ’16 Ed.D., Erin Williamson and James DeVita are managing the grant project. Russell is director of OSLE, Williamson is assistant director of OSLE and a student in Watson’s doctoral program, and DeVita is director of High Impact Pathways in OCEAL and an associate professor of higher education at the Watson College.

“As the campus liaison to NC Campus Compact, I can speak to the wealth of resources we are provided as a member institution to support educating students for civic and social responsibility,” Russell said. “We are so grateful to have been awarded this grant so that we can deepen the development of programs supporting the strengthening of democracy, and then share what we learn with other institutions across the state.”

Members of the UNCW Votes Coalition will include student liaisons from participating student organizations and campus departments, and individual students interested in furthering the civic and democratic engagement discourse on campus. The grant supports the formation of the Coalition and programming funds for participating groups. The grant will also provide excellent applied learning experiences for two students: a Masters of Instructional Technology graduate student creating the Canvas course, and an undergraduate student leader facilitating the UNCW Votes Coalition experience for peers. 

“I am eager to provide these experiences and development for students, and as a new doctoral student I am also looking forward to studying the impact of these initiatives on our students’ knowledge and civic engagement,” Williamson said. “Municipal election and mid-term elections are often overlooked by collegiate voter engagement initiatives, and I see the potential to get our students engaged in these important upcoming elections.” 

For more information on the UNCW Votes Coalition visit the OSLE website.