Engaging Students in Politics and World Issues Means a Brighter Future

As we approach another U.S. presidential election, and many state and local elections, I keep thinking about the immense responsibility that is shouldered by the faculty and staff of Keene State College, and the many higher education institutions across the country, to further instill in our students the importance of active participation in our political process and issues that affect our world and lives every day. When I look around at the young people who bring their energy and optimism to our campus, I catch a glimpse of our future.

The political rhetoric leading up to this year's presidential campaign is full of vitriol and negativity. Giving students the tools and insight to think critically - to see past the posturing - and form their own opinions, rather than be swayed only by what they hear, is critical to their futures and the future of our country. Engaging students in a dialogue and raising their awareness and confidence in these discussions is an emphasis at Keene State College. Activities and gatherings that inspire dialogue are at the center of how we accomplish these goals.

Investing resources in civic engagement opportunities is a win for students, colleges, and our larger society, alike - studies prove it. "College students who participate in civic engagement learning activities not only earn higher grade point averages but also have higher retention rates and are more likely to complete their college degree," according to a Campus Compact study titled "A Promising Connection: Increasing College Access and Success through Civic Engagement".

Colleges and universities are in a unique position to prepare students for thoughtful civic engagement, and results from a recent National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) show that civic engagement has deep meaning to students. Here is some of what our students said about their experiences:

"In the recent election, I addressed the problem of under representation of youth voting in polls by educating many of my peers on how to obtain absentee ballots and vote over winter break."

"I attended a summit in Washington, D.C. and lobbied with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to support anti-genocide and anti-atrocity legislation."

"It's very eye opening to see how many people are willing to get involved about huge global issues. Reactions to the Paris attacks were very heartwarming on campus. There are many groups which take political stances and actively try to bring awareness to them, and it's very cool to see people be so active about their beliefs, while remaining open minded."

College administrators, faculty, staff, and community leaders working together to engage students, across the country, will make an incredible impact today and for our future. I am proud to be a part of helping our future leaders find their voice in our global community.