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Re-engaging Students in Politics

Top poster by Libby Storm. Bottom poster by Eliana Taylor. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) posters were made by students in graphic design professor Courtney Mayer’s Art 3003 typography class last fall.

People find their passion for politics in various ways. For Emiko Akamine, Point Loma Nazarene University second-year political science major, it was through growing up in a diverse, inner-city neighborhood just outside of Philadelphia. Her parents were both pastors and involved in their community through non-profit work for as long as she can remember. 

“From a young age, I was exposed to the hard realities low-income families and people experiencing homelessness face. This ingrained the importance of empathy and the necessity of advocacy for these people that are so often overlooked and misunderstood,” said Akamine.

This exposure stirred Akamine’s personal interest in the importance of politics to catalyze social change for marginalized communities.

Janessa Singely, fourth-year international studies major, agreed that seeing injustice and inequity is what motivated her to seek action through political avenues. 

Through joining clubs on campus such as College Democrats and Pi Sigma Alpha, which fosters non-partisan dialogue on campus, Singley was better able to understand her own beliefs and ideas through broadening her perspectives and engaging in conversation.

“My life has always been surrounded by politics, but I never really had an avenue to explore my beliefs until my freshman year at Loma,” said Singely.

Lindsey Lupo (Ph.D), professor in PLNU’s department of History and Political Science, emphasized the connection between politics and everyday life. 

“The political world is all around us and it affects us in so many ways. Democracy can’t be taken for granted,” said Lupo.

Lupo got her doctorate in political science with a focus on democratization from University of California, Irvine. She teaches a course in the Czech Republic through the university during the summer which focuses on the transition out of totalitarian communist rule to democracy. During the school year, she teaches comparative politics, urban politics, issues in public policy, protests and social movements, scope and methods in political science and understanding the political world.

“I hope my students leave my classes feeling empowered, invigorated and hopeful about the possibilities of change in the political world and a sense that they can be part of that change,” said Lupo. 

Akamine said that the political world is so much bigger than just how people are impacted individually.

“When we understand our intricate connection to our community, we can reimagine our view on politics and the importance of engagement. Whether or not you see it, our citizenship in this nation means we have a political voice. This gives us a responsibility to make our needs known in order to create a flourishing, harmonious community,” says Akamine.

According to a voter turnout research study by the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans aged 60 years and older have the highest voter turnout, while 18 to 29 year olds have the least.

Annalise Welsh, third-year political science major, encouraged students to consider who they want making decisions on social policies as a motive to increase voter turnout. 

“It’s our simplistic civic duty to vote. It’s especially important to vote at the age we’re at because we’re voting on the policies that are going to make a big difference in our future,” said Welsh.

Singley offered ways for students to become more engaged in politics. The first suggestion was to read books or articles that they may not agree with. This provides the opportunity to not only solidify personal beliefs, but also challenge existing perspectives. Second, Singley encouraged students to find a cause they care deeply about and to get involved through volunteering or finding employment opportunities that align with its mission. Lastly, she encouraged students to engage with their peers. 

“I understand political polarization has radicalized our nation within the last few years. Approach these conversations with love and understanding. The most valuable political skill anyone can learn is listening and empathy,” said Singley.

Akamine is aware that having discussions about politics can seem daunting, but embracing this discomfort and reframing standard views on politics is the first step to becoming truly engaged in the political world.

“If we can change our mindset to see politics as so much more than just winning elections, passing bills in congress, or being overwhelmed by continuous negative news reports, and begin to see our responsibility as a member in our community and value each other’s voices, we can become more meaningfully engaged in politics and the world,” said Akamine.

PLNU offers multiple resources to cultivate a space for further political  conversation and engagement. For more information, visit https://www.plnuasb.com/social-activism or visit the instagram pages https://www.instagram.com/plnucollegedems/?hl=en and https://www.instagram.com/plnu_gop/ 

Written By: Camden Painton