Rutgers GSE CMSI

CMSI Publishes Report that Examines Successful Civic Engagement Initiatives at Minority Serving Institutions

Philadelphia, Pa., October 1, 2018—In partnership with ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, Democracy Works, Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, Young Invincibles, Students Learn Students Vote, and the Campus Vote Project, the Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has published a new report that takes a detailed look at the programs and practices that Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) are employing to engage their students in voting.

This report titled, Spotlight on MSIs: Turning Student Activism into Votes, stems from a 2017 CMSI report on the role of MSIs in increasing voter turnout. The initial report urged MSIs to address the challenges that inhibit students and their surrounding communities from participating in voting; these challenges include polling location barriers, policy restrictions, lack of voting information, miscommunication of information, and racism at the polls. The current report highlights MSIs and the initiatives these institutions have implemented to effectively eliminate barriers to student voting on their campuses.

Students of color tend to be underrepresented among voters in local and national elections. With MSIs enrolling 40% of all students of color in the United States and many MSIs having long histories of democratically engaged student populations, these institutions are in a distinct position to encourage students of color to vote.

“MSIs have a responsibility to educate their students on the significance of civic engagement,” shared Tyler Hallmark, one of the lead authors of the report. “MSI leaders must be aware of the barriers that obstruct students from voting and use their agency to advocate for student voter access.”

Selecting eight MSIs as models, the report explains that even in places where voting barriers loom largest, MSIs are advocating for their students and increasing voter turnout. For example, after a series of student marches at historically Black university, Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), an early polling site was placed near campus, making it more accessible for students to participate in local and national elections. In 2017, PVAMU students turned out to the polls and elected their student body president to City Council. These efforts and others like it have not only addressed barriers to voting but have in many cases shaped election results.
California State University, Sacramento (Sacramento State), both an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) and a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) is another MSI that holds civic engagement in high regard. The dually designated institution has expanded its annual Constitution Day to a full week filled with civic engagement activities, a speaker series, and volunteer opportunities across the city. The institution has also established an alternative spring break option that provides students the opportunity to canvas cities to increase voter registration. These efforts further solidify Sacramento State’s place as an institution that successfully promotes civic engagement on campus and in its surrounding community.
Both of these institutions and the other six highlighted in the report demonstrate intentional, innovative, and effective practices to increase voter engagement on their campus and in their respective communities.
Andrew Martinez, a lead author of the report and CMSI Research Associate shares, “Democratic engagement goes beyond simply registering students to vote. Institutions must meet students where they are and educate them on the value of their vote and how it can shape the decisions that affect their lives now and for years to come.” 
The report concludes with recommendations for MSIs to best engage their students. The report suggests partnering with MSIs that have effectively engaged students in voting, and with organizations like All In Campus Democracy Challenge and TurboVote that provide institutional support with increasing student voter interest and participation. The report also suggests educating students early in their academic careers about the significance of voting, their voting rights as students, and ensuring faculty and staff are prepared to answer questions students may have about voting.
Full copies of the report are freely available here. 

About the Center for Minority Serving Institutions 
The Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. For further information about CMSI, please visit

About the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge believes that more young people need to participate in the electoral process. Recognizing colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing student voting rates, this national awards program encourages institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship. Hundreds of colleges and universities have joined the Challenge and have committed to making democratic participation a core value on their campuses. Together, they are cultivating generations of engaged citizens, which is essential to a healthy democracy. To learn more, watch our video at and visit our website at

About Campus Vote Project 
In 2012, the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) launched Campus Vote Project (CVP) to focus and expand its work around student voting issues. CVP works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting. Our goal is to help campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote. For further information about CVP, please visit

About Democracy Works
Democracy Works is building the tools needed to upgrade the infrastructure of our democracy and improve the voting experience for voters and election officials alike. Our vision is straightforward: make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election. For further information about Democracy Works, please visit

About the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education
The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, serves as a leading venue for research, resources, and advocacy on college student political learning and engagement in democratic practice. Through research, resource development, and convening,we strive to inform and shift college and university priorities, practices, and culture to strengthen democracy and advance social and political equity. For further information about IDHE please visit

About Students Learn Students Vote
The Students Learn Students Vote Coalition is a group of over 150 nonpartisan organizations dedicated to helping college faculty, staff, and students implement data-driven strategies for increasing student registration and voting rates. For further information about Students Learn Students Vote, please visit

About Young Invincibles 
Young Invincibles (YI) was founded by a group of students in the summer of 2009, motivated by the recognition that young people’s voices were not being heard in the debate over health care reform. In the years since, YI has expanded from a group run out of a school cafeteria to a national organization with offices across the country. YI takes on issues related to health care, higher education, economic security, and civic engagement, to expand economic opportunity for young adults ages 18 to 34 and make sure our generation’s perspective is heard wherever decisions about our collective future are being made. YI builds a national network of young leaders to take action for social change, shares the stories of young adults, produces cutting-edge policy research and analysis, and provides tools for our generation to make smart economic choices. To learn more, visit and follow @YoungInvincible on Twitter. 

Monday, October 1, 2018
Press Release type: