The latter portion of the University of Mount Union’s mission illustrates that its students will be prepared for responsible citizenship when they walk across the Commencement stage. The institution’s faculty have continued to take this to heart as they teach nonpartisan civic engagement through a variety of disciplines leading up to the 2020 Election.
In POL 310, titled “Elections: How to Run and Win,” Dr. Lee Dionne, assistant professor of political science and international studies, has structured the course so that students select a candidate in a competitive Congressional race and play the role of advisor while collecting a host of data. This gets students involved in analyzing demographics, voting rates, polling data, and many other points necessary to run a political campaign.
“This project gave students an opportunity to assume the role of a campaign insider and apply their knowledge of politics in a strategic context,” Dionne said. “Each student produced a persuasive memorandum recommending policy proposal that took account of relevant polling data. One student memorandum that was shared with an actual congressional campaign!”
Though political science students have a vested interest in the political process, other disciplines at Mount Union have gotten involved in civic engagement through their respective curricula.
Three of the courses taught by Dr. Gwen Gray Schwartz, professor of English, are engaging students in unique ways. In her first-year seminar course “Using Facts, Not Fake News,” Schwartz instructs first-year students to analyze the media surrounding claims of candidates with expert, sourced findings.
Schwartz also involves students in the writing program through WRT 230H, titled “Rhetorical Grammar” and WRT 120A, “Introduction to Creative Writing.” While most of these students may not have political aspirations, they each tackle political verbiage from unique perspectives. The former features a project in which students create their own video analyzing the patterns present in the grammar of candidates’ speeches, while the latter centers on writing fiction, poetry, and nonfiction about an election issue or candidate.
“While not everyone is into politics, everyone is affected by the issues of our day, and when we get to study how we’re affected, students feel a little more connected,” said Schwartz. “I am not here to make students feel comfortable: my job is to help expand students’ worlds. Whether that’s through reading political news, or gathering a corpus of similarly-structured sentences from a candidate’s speech, or writing stories, I try to give students the space to start noticing what’s going on around them.”
“In WRT 230H there is a vastly different outlook on the election as well as society,” said Alyson Rundell ’23, a writing major of Avon, Ohio. “Rather than looking from a standpoint of one opinion or viewpoint and casting a story from that aspect, we tend to look objectively at what is happening. We focus on the grammar in the things we look at, mostly due to it being a grammar course, but we also attempt to analyze the ‘why’ behind why the writer or speaker choose to use certain words, phrases, repetition, and so on. Overall, while these classes are not aimed towards teaching political science, we still get some level of this throughout the course through our examination of the world around us.”
Without analyzing a single candidate in any race, Professor Mark McConnell’s Integrated Marketing Communications course (MKT 371) is ensuring members of the campus community are making their voices heard.
Students are placed in groups and assigned to create a video encouraging their peers, faculty, and staff to register to vote in an upcoming election. Using Mount Union and national resources, students are encouraged to come up with a creative approach to garner the attention of the target audience and implement that into a broader media plan for voter registration initiatives.
Learn more about Mount Union’s civic engagement efforts at moununion.edu/umu-votes.