Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Voting’

Meet Katelyn Winstead – Andrew Goodman Foundation Fellow

Posted on: March 1st, 2021 by crpauley

Hello! My name is Katelyn Winstead, and I am a junior transfer student from Ocean Springs, MS. I am in the process of completing a double major in public policy leadership and philosophy, and I am also a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors Scholar. After I complete my undergrad, I plan on enrolling in a dual Public Policy and Juris Doctorate program in the hopes of continuing on to a career in the areas of law and public policy.

Civic engagement is important to me because I am a strong believer in the voice of the people; I recognize that our voices matter, and that the ways we choose to get involved have a direct impact on our society and democracy as a whole. Protecting the civil and voting rights of citizens is of utmost importance to me, because those rights are what allow us to participate in our democracy and make our needs become heard. Becoming involved with the Andrew Goodman Foundation has already taught me so much about civic processes, advocacy, being a leader, and representing the voices of voters that need to be heard. AGF has given me the opportunity not only to advocate for voting rights, but also to continuously stay engaged within the community and establish lasting impacts on campus.

My favorite part about the LOU community is the welcoming atmosphere and diverse viewpoints that students and community members bring. Starting out at Ole Miss was nerve wracking, and I was so worried that I would not make friends or be able to get involved, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. The LOU community instantly made me feel at home and, despite the roadblocks of the pandemic, provided plenty of different opportunities to get involved both on and off campus. I had complete strangers helping me find a job, giving me recommendations on which organizations to join, and introducing me to all the beauty of Oxford and the University. The sense of community and belonging here is incomparable, and I am so grateful to have been welcomed into this community with open arms.

If you are interested in getting in touch with Katelyn about all things related to voting rights and access, civic engagement, or to hear more about The Andrew Goodman Foundation, email engaged@olemiss.edu.

Meet Caroline Leonard- Andrew Goodman Foundation Fellow

Posted on: February 26th, 2021 by crpauley

“Hi! My name is Caroline Leonard, and I am a freshman from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. I am majoring in Chemical Engineering and International Studies, and I am in the Arabic Flagship Program. While I don’t have any set plans for after graduation, I know I want to continue to work with the people around me to help foster an engaged and active community.

I am very excited to represent the Andrew Goodman Foundation on campus to work to help spread information about and to advocate for voting rights and access. Civic engagement and community engagement go hand in hand, and it is important to make sure everyone has access to the information and resources they need so they can vote. Voting is one of the most direct ways we can show our representatives what we want, so it is important for everyone to have access to the polls so they are being represented how they want to be and so that they can choose representatives who share their same passions.

Community engagement is important to me because it allows you to give back to your community by getting involved in things you care about. I think working in your community not only helps you connect to the people around you, but it allows you to grow by learning and experiencing new things, taking leadership roles, and fostering a sense of belonging. I have always loved working with people and learning about them while being involved in my community.

My favorite part of the LOU community is how friendly everyone is. While I have not been in Oxford for very long, I have met a lot of great people both on and off campus. No matter where you go or who you meet, someone will always say hi and tell you a little bit more about the area. Additionally, there are a lot of opportunities to work with people who have similar passions to you, whether it be environmental conservation, advocacy, or recreational events. Recently I learned about the South Campus Rail Trail near the South Campus Recreation center, and I am really excited to go explore the area.

If I had a superpower I would want to be able to speak every language. I love to travel and to learn about new places, and so much of a culture exists in its language. I would love to be able to talk to everyone around the world!”

If you are interested in getting in touch with Caroline about all things related to voting rights and access, civic engagement, or to hear more about The Andrew Goodman Foundation, email engaged@olemiss.edu.

Recognizing 2020-21 Faculty Civic Champions

Posted on: February 5th, 2021 by elpayseu

The Office of Community Engagement, in conjunction with the Voting Engagement Roundtable, is pleased to recognize Faculty Champions for the fall 2020 semester. The UM Faculty Champions Program was created last year to invite faculty to support our institutional voting engagement efforts. Led by Na Youn Lee, Assistant Professor of Social Work, the program offers faculty different ways they can support student voting engagement through the classroom and support students in navigating the sometimes-confusing voter processes.

During the fall semester, participating faculty could choose from various civic learning opportunities: adding a voluntary voting engagement blackboard module to their course, inviting a voter ambassador to host a classroom presentation on voting, supporting DebateWatch programming, and connecting students with resources for out-of-state voting. Each learning opportunity used by the instructor earned them Civic Champion Points. 

We are thankful for the practices these faculty members integrated into their academic courses. These faculty were part of a select group of 49 faculty members across departments and disciplines who committed to integrate voting engagement into their courses in different ways. Their commitment helped raise student voter awareness and engagement across campus.

Through their efforts, UM students were able to hear class presentations from our student voting ambassadors and get them excited about participating in the electoral process. Class presentations included how to get registered to vote, the ins and outs of absentee ballots, and resources available to them, such as vote.olemiss.edu and msvotes.org. Their efforts also gave students access to individual consultations, notary support, and online voting resources. This nonpartisan work helped students to understand the process of voting and how to participate in our democracy.

Increasing political literacy is a crucial step in ensuring that students become informed leaders. Incorporating democratic engagement in an open and nonpartisan way in the classroom can serve as a way to invite respectful discussions across the political aisle. Civic education isn’t just for political science and public policy courses. The faculty who participated covered a range of departments and majors, such as Mathematics and Civil Engineering. 

We are pleased to recognize the following faculty members for their participation last fall. (Several participants opted out of public recognition and are not included in this list.) Thank you, all, for promoting student civic engagement.


Gold Level Civic Champions

  • Erin Parker
  • Maureen Meyers
  • Bryan Kessler
  • Carmen Sanchis-Sinisterra
  • Amy Fisher
  • Eliot Parker
  • Catarina Passidomo
  • Brian Droubay 
  • Kevin Cozart
  • Barbra Williams
  • Patricia Digby
  • Brent Marsh

Silver Level Civic Champions

  • Molly Pasco-Pranger
  • Julie Wronski
  • Ellen Foster
  • Ayla Gafni
  • Debora Wenger
  • Sara Platt
  • Virginia Moore
  • Meg Barnes
  • Hannah Allen
  • Daniel Stearns

Bronze Level Civic Champions

  • Carolyn Higdon


Statewide Ballot Initiatives: State Flag

Posted on: October 20th, 2020 by elpayseu

In the coming posts, UM Voting Ambassadors will be previewing what is on the Mississippi ballot, so that you understand the offices, the statewide ballot initiatives, and your choices as you prepare to cast your vote. In this post, Voting Ambassador Nick Castellanos shares about the state flag referendum, one of three statewide initiatives on the ballot. For those voting out-of-state, please reference our State by State Voting Guide for information on your ballot.

History and Process

In June 2020, House Bill 1796 removed the former state flag, which was first instituted in 1894, 29 years after the civil war ended. The former state flag featured a smaller version of the confederate flag in the upper left corner, which eventually led to its removal in June of 2020. <Read more about the removal of the state flag here>

Criteria and Selection

Following House Bill 1796, a Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag was formed, which fielded designs from the public as long as they met the following criteria:
● Simple enough for a child to draw from memory
● Use meaningful symbolism
● Use two or three basic colors
● Be distinctive

The bill stated that:
“The new design for the Mississippi State Flag shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.”

The Ballot

The commission narrowed down 3,000 submissions to the following design, which will appear on the ballot like so:

Mississippi State Flag Design

Mississippi State Flag Design

Please vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on whether the following design shall be the official Mississippi State Flag

[ ] YES
[ ] NO

It is important to note that the referendum on the ballot does not involve reinstating the former state flag. If the referendum is voted down on election day, Nov 3rd, the commission will select another flag design, which will be voted on in 2021.

For your reference:

Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos

UM Faculty and Students Lead Voter Engagement Efforts

Posted on: October 19th, 2020 by elpayseu

This blog post is a recap of the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) Faculty Lunch & Learn session on 10/12/2020.

Dr. Na Youn Lee, Prof. Amy Fisher, and Ms. Patricia Digby along with panelists Tanya Rhodes Smith, Austin Conner, and Jaycee Brown, joined us for the second session in our Faculty Lunch & Learn series on October 12 to discuss the impact of the Voter Empowerment Project, a student-led research project to increase voter participation in rural communities while also giving social work students hands-on, educational experiences in the field.

Created in 2019, the Voter Empowerment Project (VEP) partners with local and nationwide organizations like MS Votes to assess voter needs and barriers to voting, a large part of the reason some people neglect their right to vote. “The practice of voting is very complex,” says Smith, co-founder of the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. “These systemic barriers create and reinforce engagement barriers.” These barriers create attitudes within communities that voting is practically useless. Projects like the Mobilization Campaign and the VEP are aimed at identifying and addressing these barriers.

In partnership with the Mobilization Campaign, the VEP trains social work students on the importance of voting and voter engagement, especially in the framework of the social work profession. Before, according to our panelists, voting engagement had not been a central focus in the social work profession, but the Voter Empowerment Project is just one of many rising efforts to bring attention to the importance of voter engagement in social work.

Fisher, associate professor of social work at the University of Mississippi, describes the three levels of social work focus: micro, mezzo, and macro. She explains that the VEP is simultaneously working at both the micro and macro levels of social work. While the project is intervening at the community level, there is also the central question of how to get the individual to the polls despite these barriers

To find engagement barriers, participants like Conner, a doctoral social work student, went into communities on election day in 2018 and evaluated polling locations in different areas. Students conducted a needs assessment within rural and nonrural communities to compare the barriers that Smith discussed and found a real need for accessible voting policies.

Dr. Lee, assistant professor of social work at the University of Mississippi, says that the VEP created an almost immediate increase in voter awareness, at least in the preliminary evaluation stage. Among social work students, this project had already begun to change attitudes toward voter engagement as social work and voter engagement as a whole. “They never thought about voting as part of the social work mission,” says Lee, “It was very overly positive.” Other analysis and evaluation is still ongoing, but this trend is an exciting one for both Lee and Fisher as political advocacy becomes a more prominent focus of social work across the country.

If you would like to watch the entire session, it is available on our YouTube channel, and be on the lookout for our next Lunch & Learn session coming soon.

UM Votes: Absentee Ballots – What You Need to Know

Posted on: October 6th, 2020 by elpayseu

Once you have registered to vote, there is a good chance that either because you are not going to be in your home county on election day or because of concerns about coronavirus, you are interested in obtaining an absentee ballot. (See Elections and COVID 19 Guide Here)

In Mississippi, you have two choices for casting your ballot:

  • Vote in-person on Election Day, 11/3
  • Vote by absentee ballot, 9/21 – 11/3

In Mississippi, there are a limited number of valid reasons to get an absentee ballot. Being outside your home county because you are here at Ole Miss on election day is the main one that would apply to college students, but other reasons include being required to work during polling hours on election day or having a disability that keeps you from going to the polls. The state of Mississippi is currently among the stricter states for accepting concerns of the coronavirus as a reason to vote absentee, so that reason on its own is not enough.

View the full MS Secretary of State guide on absentee ballots here.

View absentee ballot information for other states here.

To cast absentee ballot in-person:

Yes, you can cast an absentee ballot in-person throughout the election season! This is an easy way to know your ballot has been cast and avoids any potential delays by mail.

Circuit Clerk’s Offices are open during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday).

Circuit Clerk’s Offices will also open on Saturdays during Election season:

  • 8 a.m.- noon on 10/24
  • 8 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on 10/31

To request a mail-in absentee ballot:

Contact your county circuit clerk’s office and request an absentee ballot. You will tell them your reason for voting absentee (you are a college student and away from your home county), and they will get your ballot sent to your mailing address. Make sure they have the correct mailing address!

Directory of MS Circuit Clerk’s Offices

Notarizing your mail-in absentee ballot:

Yes, you have to have your ballot notarized! The notary will certify that you are the one who has filled out your ballot before you get it sent off.

Yes, we can help you with that! – For FREE!

Email engaged@olemiss.edu to schedule an appointment to have your ballot notarized. We have several notaries that have made their services free of charge for absentee ballots this election season. Need other options? Pak Mail on campus has notaries on staff for a fee on $5 and the Oxford public library has two notaries on staff. Reach out to any of these groups to set up a time to get your ballot notarized.

Even though absentee ballots are typically returned by mail, you can also bring your ballot in person to the circuit clerk’s office to ensure a timely delivery. It is very important to make sure that your ballot is postmarked by 5:00 pm, Election Day, Tuesday, 11/3, and received within 10 days, 11/13. If you are worried about potential mail delays, you can drop the ballot off in person at your circuit clerk’s office.

Remember that if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to the voting ambassadors at engaged@olemiss.edu or call your circuit clerk’s office (in the county in which you are registered)!

Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos

For your reference:

VA Virtual Drop In Hours Schedule – 9/28-10/5

Posted on: September 28th, 2020 by elpayseu

Prepare to Vote in Election 2020 – National, State, and Local Elections! Our UM Voting Ambassador team is here to help you navigate voter registration, whether you want to register here in LaFayette County or in your hometown/state. We can also walk you through what you need to know for absentee voting and to prepare for in-person voting on Election Day!

No pre-registration is required. Simply click on the timeslot below to access the Zoom link for drop-in hours with our VA team.

Focus: Voter Registration (MS or Out of State)
MS Voter Registration Deadline is 10/5/2020.

Monday, 9/28

10:00 – 11:00    VA: Maggie

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Eric

Tuesday, 9/29

9:00 – 10:00       VA: Morgan

Wednesday, 9/30

11:00 – 12:00    VA: Nick

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Clinton

 Thursday, 10/1

10:00 – 11:00   VA: Katelyn

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Libby

Friday, 10/2 **Extended Office Hours Available**

9:00 – 11:00       VA: Jaycee

11:00 – 12:00      VA: Libby

12:00 – 1:00       VA: Sally

1:00 – 2:00          VA: Jaycee

2:00 – 3:00        VA: Delaney

3:00 – 4:00        VA: Jaycee

4:00 – 5:00         VA: Madeleine

Monday, 10/5 **Extended Office Hours Available**
**Mississippi Voter Registration Deadline – Must be turned in to Circuit Clerk’s office or postmarked by 5:00 pm on 10/5**

9:00 – 10:00

10:00 – 11:00    VA: Maggie

11:00- 1:00

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Eric

2:00 – 5:00

Need other assistance, have technical issues, or want to schedule a one-on-one appointment? Email us at engaged@olemiss.edu.

For your reference:


Thank you to our 2019-20 Voting Engagement Roundtable!

Posted on: May 6th, 2020 by elpayseu

This year, the Office of Community Engagement convened interested students and campus partners around voting engagement. This group’s collective nonpartisan work has focused on boosting voter registration, voter education, and voter turnout to ensure that students have access to participation in the civic practice of voting.  These efforts led to the university’s acceptance into the Voter Friendly Campus Designation program with hopes of receiving the designation in 2021. Learn more on our voting website – vote.olemiss.edu.

Thank you to all of our student leaders, faculty, and staff partners who have been a part of moving this work forward and fulfilling our public mission!

Announcing the 2020 Overall Award Recipient for Excellence in Community Engagement!

Posted on: May 4th, 2020 by elpayseu