This year, Trinity University has been named a Voter Friendly Campus because of its initiatives and work with the community as well as its civically engaged students.
The Voter Friendly Campus program was started to encourage institutions to develop student voter engagement, education, and voter turnout plans. To get the Voter Friendly designation, schools must submit a voting engagement plan and report their results. This process took 18 months of planning and working with local and internal organizations. A few of Trinity’s campus goals were to increase voter registration and participation, to collaborate with student groups and faculty to encourage voting, and to partner with local and national civic organizations.
Jamie Thompson ’05, Ed.D., interim dean of students and associate vice president for Student Affairs, and Bernadette Buchanan, Ph.D., interim associate dean of students, are heading the voter engagement task force to develop goals and plans to increase voter turnout. Some of Trinity’s ideas for future initiatives include Congress to Campus, which brings former senators to campus to discuss the political issues and encourage healthy discussion, creating competitions that center around voter registration with TurboVote, and collaborating with faculty in educational workshops. “We want both internal and external constituencies to see and understand that Trinity is a place where voter engagement is encouraged and frankly expected, where you can come and have the dialogue and be an engaged citizen,” Thompson says.
Students are also getting involved in voter mobilization. Beginning last year, Campus Vote Project invited Trinity University to participate in a democracy fellowship program. As a result, Trinity now has two Democracy Fellows supported in part by the Campus Vote Project (by way of funding and training) and in part by Trinity University (by way of funding and programmatic and educational responsibilities). The TU Democracy Fellows help strengthen voter engagement on campus, by collaborating with MOVE Texas and Campus Vote Project partners, creating programs and events, and working with various university departments to involve students in voting. Kiara Fernando ’26 worked in this position for the entire 2022-23 school year and was recognized in the All in Challenge Voter Student Honor Roll.
“My experience as a campus Democracy Fellow has truly shaped my trajectory at Trinity,” Fernando says. “I came into my freshman year without knowing where I wanted to get involved or what I was passionate about. Getting the Democracy Fellow position became my outlet to channel my passions while empowering others to make a difference.”
As Democracy Fellow, Fernando encourages students to get involved through campus initiatives, such as Trinity’s National Voter Registration Day events, and in the community as a poll worker.“ As students, there are already many barriers in place that make voting difficult. The Democracy Fellow position is in place to ensure that every single Trinity student has an equal opportunity to express their voice and make a tangible impact through voting,” she says.
In recent years, civic engagement among college students has skyrocketed. From the 2016 to the 2020 election, the percentage of students who voted was up 14 percentage points to 66%. Trinity University, too, has had a marked increase in voter engagement. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) report, Trinity’s 2020 voter registration rate was 93.3%. Our voting rate was 75.6%, which is higher than the national average.
Buchanan stresses the importance of a civically engaged student body. “We want students to think they can change the world. They can change the trajectory. But they have to do something. And voting is a way that you can actually do something.”
Through all these initiatives and more, Trinity shows its devotion to creating change. “It's an opportunity for us to live out the institution’s mission by building engaged citizens. What better way to invest ourselves in the community—the San Antonio community, the Trinity community—than to vote in our local and national elections?” Thompson says.
Save the date for National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), an annual civic holiday that encourages voter registration and civic engagement. On Tuesday, September 19, we will be celebrating NVRD from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Coates Esplanade. Students can try a voting machine, play games, enter raffles, win prizes, ask questions, and, most importantly, get registered to vote—all while enjoying free tacos, paletas, snowcones, and popcorn.
Learn more about Trinity's commitment to voter engagement.