UCF was recognized this week as one of 123 colleges and universities in the nation as a 2019-20 Voter Friendly Campus because of its initiatives to register and encourage students to vote.

The designation was made by NASPA, an association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession, and the Campus Vote Project, a part of the Fair Elections Center.

“As a campus we have a coalition of students, staff, and faculty who promote civic engagement,” says Haley G. Winston, assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement, who nominated the university for the recognition.

The program requires campuses to encourage students to vote, participate in the political process and develop a culture of democratic engagement on campus. The Voter Friendly Campus designation is presented every two years. UCF also was chosen the first time the award was given for 2017-18.

To be considered, a campus must submit a plan to bolster student civic engagement. UCF’s plan calls for making the university “national champions” in voter registration and increasing voter turnout. The goals include bringing elected officials on campus to participate in open forums, securing an early voting location, mobilizing volunteers to register voters and other benchmarks. UCF had a 61 percent voting rate in 2016 and has set a goal of achieving a 70 percent student voting by 2020.

“The framework we established set a good precedent for the election years to follow,” Winston says.

Motivating students to register and vote establishes civic habits that last well beyond the collegiate experience.

Motivating students to register and vote establishes civic habits that last well beyond the collegiate experience, NASPA says. Incorporating democratic engagement into campus life helps students explore their political beliefs and how they would like to engage in the democratic process.

“Institutionalizing voter engagement, registration, and turnout efforts on college campuses is no easy feat for institutions of higher learning, especially in today’s political climate wherein many communities are polarized,” said NASPA president Kevin Kruger.

UCF also has been a recipient of the Silver Campus Award for Excellence in Student Voter Engagement given by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, and last fall was named by Washington Monthly magazine as one of America’s 58 best colleges for student voting

Other Florida schools that received the Voter Friendly Campus designation are: Florida Atlantic University, Miami Dade College, New College of Florida, and Rollins College.