By Carlton Usher, Associate Professor of Political Science, Kennesaw State University
For the previous seven years Kennesaw State University (Ga.) has honored Constitution Day by extending the day into a week of activities. This year was no different.
Our week of activities started on Constitution Day with voter registration activities on both Kennesaw and Marietta campuses. Michael Sanseviro, Dean of Students, led the effort to promote voter registration on behalf of ADP and CLDE. Registration sites were located on both campuses and included voter registration tables and student leaders serving as what Dean Sanseviro calls “roving registrars.” These roving registrars are student leaders with iPads canvassing the campuses encouraging students to sign up to vote on the spot. Sanseviro also collaborated with SGA president, TurboVote, and the Center for Student Leadership to focus on first-year and first-time voters.
On September 19, Professor Carlton Usher led a teach-in on the constitution and religious freedom. Each student was offered a pocket constitution and small gifts furnished by the New York Times were awarded to the winners of the constitution quiz.
Usher also coordinated two other events to advance civic learning. On September 22, Voter Registration Day Jerry Gonzalez the founding and current Executive Director of Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) and the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund was invited to campus. His lecture titled Electoral Involvement and Participation: A Latino Perspective was informative and engaging. As one student puts it “though I am not Latino, I walked away understanding the issues a little clearer, immigration especially. I am glad you invited us to this program and I met
some great people.” Another remarked that “… the high level of conversation during the Q&A shocked me a bit, I assumed my friends of other ethnicities did not know the issues, it turns out they do, I feel good about that.” Some major themes of Gonzalez’s lecture included charging students to become involved, staying involved, staying abreast of the issues and to impact change now. He discussed the Georgia electorate, voting rights, immigration, representative government, and the impact of new laws on Georgia’s Latino citizens. The ethnically diverse audience was fully engaged and several students registered to vote at the end of the lecture. Our speaker was pleased with the high level of civic and electoral understanding of our student population. It was a great learning experience for all including staff and faculty who dropped by to offer their support for our work.
To connect with the perpetual mission of advancing global learning and student engagement at Kennesaw State University, Michael Slackman, International Managing Editor for The New York Times gave a lecture on September 24 titled Currents in Global Reporting and Democracy. After a great introduction by a student leader, Slackman offered us on a compelling narrative of his work abroad. He successfully framed the discussion of global reporting within the context of citizenship, democracy, and participation. He engaged the students on popular subjects such as Middle East politics, citizen media, natural disaster reporting, and the challenges of global reporting. His enthusiasm for the subject coupled with firsthand accounts of his work made for a great afternoon. The audience, mostly first-year students were fully engaged and had plenty of post lecture observations and questions. Several journalism students remarked later about how helpful he was discussing the profession with them. His willingness to help and using his personal biography to explain his work was greatly appreciated by the students, staff, and faculty in attendance. It was a splendid and informative affair.
Overall, Constitution Week was a great week of activities and lectures for our students, staff, and faculty. Our tradition of extending constitution day to a week focused on student civic empowerment requires various partnerships, long –term planning and support from the office of the provost; all of which made the planning quite rewarding. With all the exciting additions to ADP at Kennesaw State University, we are sure our tradition to encourage greater engagement from an already engaged university will continue with great success.