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Our Issues, Our Voices, Our Votes: Youth Civic Participation Today

Skin in the game: Turning Engagement into Votes

In partnership with:
With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Gen-Z’s civic engagement is loud, visible on the streets and viral on social media. They are engaged, worried about big issues and increasingly discontent with incremental or no progress in addressing them. The question is whether this energy will translate into votes? How do advocacy groups and political parties recruit young people? Some use aggressive tactics and build on anger. Some tap into passion for an issue or partisan identity. Others stay above the fray and appeal to a sense of civic responsibility and extol the power of voting. Who’s listening to all these different messages and why? No matter the rate at which young people turn out to the polls, they will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the 2022 midterms. Join our panelists as we discuss the methods being used to engage young people and harness their power, while at the same time fostering a healthy civic culture.

Serena manages Running Start’s Congressional Fellowship, the only Congressional internship and political leadership training specifically for college-aged women; she also coordinates Running Start’s social media and digital communities. She has had a variety of roles with Running Start, including speaking at a main stage plenary session on the need for Millennial and Gen Z empowerment in the workplace as a delegate to the 2019 Reykjavik Global Forum. She previously interned with Feminist Majority Foundation, Pay Our Interns, Platform, the UMD A. James Clark School of Engineering, CLIA and MaryPIRG. Serena is a proud double Terp with both a BA in public policy and an MPP from the University of Maryland; she was deeply involved as a campus leader and served in leadership roles in Kappa Omega Alpha, the university's premier public policy professional fraternity, and in the UMD Student Government Association. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and enjoys learning about culinary history and watching gothic films and television.
Ben Holden is a Data Science Graduate Student at the University of Colorado - Boulder, as well as a Suffolk University alum where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economy (PPE). Since beginning his college career, he has spent a number of years as an assisting researcher focusing on globalization and economics. He also dedicated time to analyzing the American workers and automation, while depicting the causes behind market disruptions and workforce displacement. He has held various positions in institutions such as the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, The Beacon Hill Institute, and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Ben has shared stories, including with the New York Times Magazine, about how aligning right-of-center and being a member of the LGBTQ community creates often stirring interactions with other conservatives who believe they're on the same page. He is mostly liberal on social issues, but believes solutions are best derived in a symbiosis between a free market and limited but effective government. Having undergone an evolution, he disapproves of ideological purity, partisanship, and polarization, and is therefore skeptical of most forms of activism. He believes that problems are best solved by working in the private sector, and is currently completing his Master of Science in Data Science out in Colorado.
Eric Gordon is a professor at Emerson College, director of the Engagement Lab, and Assistant Dean of Civic Partnerships in the School of the Arts. He is also a research affiliate in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. His current research focuses on how new technology and media impact the way people trust institutions. He specializes in collaborative research and design processes, and has served as an expert advisor for local and national governments, as well as NGOs around the world, designing responsive processes that help organizations transform to meet their stated values. He has created over a dozen digital games and apps for public sector use and advised organizations on how to build their own inclusive and meaningful tools. He is the author of four books and over two dozen journal articles on digital media, civics and social justice.
Clarissa Unger is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, the largest national nonpartisan network in the United States dedicated to increasing student voter participation. She has a background in advocacy, communications, fundraising, and political campaigns and has worked on strategic campaigns both nationally and internationally. Prior to founding the SLSV Coalition, she served as the Development Coordinator for the Robert. J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas where she helped to promote civic and democratic engagement on campus. Clarissa has a Masters in Public Administration and a BA in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Kansas and a Masters in Comparative European Politics from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
Adam Gismondi, Ph.D., serves as Director of Impact at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. He supports IDHE’s founding director and leads partnerships for the office, communications, and theory-to-practice resources, and he is co-author on all of IDHE’s national research reports on college student voting and recommendations for practice. His research looks at democracy, digital platforms, and education, and his doctoral dissertation focused on how college student social media use impacts student civic learning and engagement. Adam also currently serves as an advisory board member for SXSWedu, civic media researcher for Civic Series, and recently finished two terms as president of the William & Mary Alumni Boston Chapter. Prior to working in a research capacity, Adam spent six years working as a student affairs administrator at both the University of Florida and Florida State University. He holds a B.A. in sociology from William & Mary, an M.Ed. in student personnel in higher education from the University of Florida, and a Ph.D. in higher education from Boston College.
Hannah Joy Gebresilassie is an award-winning journalist, motivational speaker and entrepreneur hailing from Atlanta, GA with 10+ years of experience in media and community organizing. Her work has been featured in several local, national and international news outlets. She previously worked as a television reporter and anchor, and currently serves as the first-time permanent program coordinator for Emory Votes Initiative which is housed in the Center for Civic and Community Engagement. She is also the cofounder and executive director of Protect the Vote, a nonpartisan voter mobilization organization in Georgia. Hannah is a proud alumnus of Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and Northwestern University, where she earned her master’s degree in journalism. She is passionate about storytelling and community building.