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OU students named to task force promoting civic engagement on Michigan college campuses

Oakland University students Jeremy Johnson and Anna Van Hese are among 25 students selected to serve on the Michigan Department of State’s Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force.    

For the next year, they will serve as civic engagement liaisons between the Michigan Secretary of State's office and Oakland University to inform their peers of their voting rights, promote awareness of the newly redistricted electoral maps and combat election misinformation on campus.

They were named to the task force in late April, along with students from 17 other higher education institutions across the state. Prior to being selected, students submitted an application and were interviewed about their ideas on how to increase civic participation among young people on college campuses. 

Johnson and Van Hese have worked on a variety of civic engagement efforts on OU’s campus and in their communities.

Johnson, of Grand Blanc, has served on the Oakland University Student Congress as Director of Civic Affairs and Speaker of the Legislature, and as a Student Fellow for the Campus Vote Project, an initiative devoted to reducing barriers to student voting. 

Through these roles, the political science major has supported campus-wide civic engagement efforts, including voter registration drives, providing free postage for absentee voting, and collaborating with student organizations and campus departments to host civic engagement events.

These efforts helped OU gain recognition as a Voter Friendly Campus. In fact, of the Michigan colleges participating in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, OU ranked fourth in voter turnout in 2020 and had a nearly 90% voter registration rate, among the highest in the state. 

“Typically, student voters turn out among the least of all voting blocs, and as the population that will eventually inherit our nation’s democracy and political systems, it is incredibly important we begin to turn out and vote now,” Johnson said. “Voting is not the only way to advocate for changes you’d like to see, but it is one of the most important ways, and my goal is to make voting as easy as possible for every student at OU.” 

Van Hese, an anthropology and sociology major, has been active on campus as President of OU’s Alpha Sigma Tau sorority chapter and Vice President of the Greek Council. She is a member of Healthy, Optimistic, Mindfulness, Education, Stability (HOMES), a student group advocating balance between body, mind and social aspects of life, the OU chapter of the American Association of University Women, and also has held student leadership roles in the First Year Advising Center, Orientation and New Student Programs, Office for Student Involvement, Undergraduate Admissions, The Honors College and OU Athletics. 

Through her sorority, Van Hese has volunteered with HAVEN of Oakland County, a nationally recognized nonprofit that provides programs to promote violence-free homes and communities, and helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

She has also supported Kids Against Hunger and Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps women achieve economic independence by providing professional attire and other resources. Along with these outreach activities, Van Hese has served as an election worker in her hometown of Madison Heights.

 “Many people only view electoral work as civic engagement, but that is not the case,” she said. “Civic engagement is when communities work together in political and non-political settings to improve and protect their communities. I joined the Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force because I want to make a positive impact on the Oakland University community, as well as other college communities in Michigan.”

Chamber Trustees