In our Partner Spotlight Series, see how Motivote partner organizations are making the digital platform their own and driving community engagement goals. In this Spotlight, hear how program leaders from Ohio’s Xavier University use student ambassadors, liaisons and influencers to expand their reach and make political participation more accessible.
Civic engagement has long been central to the mission of Xavier University. As a Jesuit college with values rooted in working together for the greater good, voting, engaging with the community, and participating in the political system is key.
One of the ways that Xavier has put civic engagement at the heart of its mission is through its Take It On initiative. A non-partisan program created to promote civic engagement, encourage dialogue, and build capacity across the university for people to engage in difficult conversations.
Led by senior Abby White, voting and elections fellow, and Political Science professor Mack Mariani, the decision to thread Motivote into the Take It On initiative was simple.
Where campus events were great for creating dialogue and helping students become educated on different initiatives, with a focus on voter registration and voter turnout, the need for something to get students informed and registered was clear: “We’re using Motivote, the prizes, and all the different platforms to get students fired up and get them and their friends registered to vote.”
Empowering Students to Lead
Not quite a club, like many of the other student groups connected with politics, Take It On is more an academic initiative. “It was specifically built for faculty and staff to offer a better source of dialogue and conversations for students.” But this year, using Motivote, Abby and Mack decided to try something different and put the power of Take It On into the students’ hands.
They’re not just coming up to a table and filling something out. They’re getting to engage other students and strategize about how we might reach other groups.
At the beginning of the academic year, Motivote launched within the Take It On initiative alongside a team of ambassadors – students charged with using the Motivote platform to get their classmates fired up about voting. “We now have a team of ambassadors, different students involved with the program, that are using their positions on campus to spread awareness about Motivote.”
With Motivote in students’ hands, they see community building and creativity around voter engagement come to life.
“We allow students to take leadership in civic engagement and lead dialogue. They’re showing up, they’re getting an opportunity to lead on these issues, not just coming up to a table and filling something out. They’re getting to engage other students and strategize about how we might reach other groups.”
The ambassadors, consisting of about 60 students with varying levels of participation, are tasked with getting the word out to the campus community about Motivote. They’re the team on the ground getting information about Motivote out to their classmates, faculty, and staff. Using their social circles, they work together to get people signed up, excited to spread the word, and recruit more ambassadors.
Leveraging Partnerships & Social Capital
Where the ambassadors see the best results with Motivote is through strategic partnerships. The ambassador program includes student liaisons dedicated to clubs, athletics programs, intramural sports, and more. “We’ve got a lot of different groups on campus that have a lot of reach and pull. With them supporting Motivote, it’s a lot better than if it was just us and our ambassadors.”
The ambassadors work with the student groups on a variety of initiatives. Resident Life, for example, will create flyers for RAs to send to their resident group chats. Liaisons with clubs and intramural sports are creating emails, graphics, and messages for presidents to share with their organizations to encourage them to join Motivote and create a team. Within these groups, student ambassadors use prizes to incentivize students – awarding the team, club, and staff with the most points with a team dinner.
You have social capital that I don’t have. As an athlete, people look up to you and care about what you support. You can use that social capital for this benefit and benefit your friends and the people who look up to you.
Social media also plays a significant role in getting the word out. “The first goal was just to use social networking to get it out to our ambassadors. And then beyond that, we wanted to advertise. We have Instagram and TikTok that are both doing pretty well.”
Abby and the team also encourage students to use their social capital to encourage people to join. They’ve recruited athletes and student leaders across campus to appear in videos to promote Motivote, the benefits of signing up, and to share and promote content on social media.
“The way that I described it is: you have social capital that I don’t have. As an athlete, people look up to you and care about what you support. You can use that social capital for this benefit and benefit your friends and the people who look up to you.”
Making Participation Accessible
The core reason for incorporating Motivote, says Abby, is that it makes political participation feel accessible.As a citizen, there will inevitably be an issue, a candidate, or a policy that affects you or someone you love. And part of being a good citizen is political participation.
I want students to be able to understand where that’s coming from and then be able to educate themselves on why it matters to them and how they connect to seeing change through voting, thorough dialogue, and through being involved in politics.
For the many students who say don’t know much about politics, don’t care, or don’t know why they should care – it’s crucial to make it easy to understand and directly connect it to voting.
“I know that’s not an easy ask from students and I just want to make it as easy as possible…Bringing Take it On and Motivote to the student body, the Xavier community, and the surrounding Cincinnati community is fulfilling that mission in the best way possible.”