Student-led ‘civic engagement survey’ completed

Jul 6, 2023 | Liberal Arts, Students

Louisiana Tech University students involved with the Civic Engagement Survey Team have successfully identified civic engagement opportunities for the University by conducting a study on students’ knowledge of and participation in their local community.

This initiative began a year ago — Spring 2022 — when students in a political science class developed a proposal for a multi-year civic engagement action plan that they then presented to University President Dr. Les Guice.

Dr. William O’Brochta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, led the initiative and explained that “the purpose of this first year was to collect preliminary data on Tech students’ civic engagement activities so that we could better identify opportunities to create programs and initiatives to help our students become engaged citizens and active participants in their community.”

To help see the preparation phase through, political science students formed the Civic Engagement Survey Team.

The Team focused on ensuring that a representative sample of students responded to the survey, allowing campus leaders to assess current levels of student civic engagement. Team members volunteered to take shifts performing grassroots outreach, such as putting up flyers, handing out survey QR codes, and verbally informing students about the survey. Team members also reached out to student groups on campus to further spread word about the survey.

Allowing Tech students to participate in the administration of the survey has yielded valuable information: the results of the survey were representative of the student body and garnered more than 1,000 responses. Moreover, the team gained useful experience connecting with individual students and organizations on campus.

These implications highlight the success of the project, which has provided practical benefits for students and necessary tools for civic engagement projects in the future at Tech.

Emma Bowman, a political science student who graduated with her BA this spring, said taking the civic engagement survey exposed her to “different avenues of civic engagement that I had not thought of before. It feels good to know that the students are being accounted for with future civic engagement projects at Louisiana Tech.”

Similarly, students in Scope and Methods in the Social Sciences, led by O’Brochta, participated in the administration of nine focus groups as a part of their education on qualitative data-collection methods. These focus groups were designed to expand the results of the survey by uncovering a more detailed understanding of students’ knowledge of and participation in civic engagement activities.

“It is inspiring to see Louisiana Tech take the initiative on bolstering civic engagement among its students, and I am excited to see what civic engagement opportunities wait for students in the future,” said junior political science student A’Myra Whitby.

The students in the course were responsible for documenting and analyzing the responses from the focus group participants. Allowing the students to engage with the data collection in this way proved to be a meaningful and educational way to diversify class structure. In addition, the responses of the focus groups gave the results of the survey more depth, which means comprehending those results and applying them to civic engagement opportunities becomes much easier.

“Using the results of the survey and the focus groups, we can tell that Louisiana Tech is ripe for civic engagement initiatives in the future,” said Dr. Jeremy Mhire, Director of Tech’s Waggonner Center for Civic Engagement and Public Policy and the Joe D. Waggonner Professor of Political Science. “Students have shown a great desire to become involved, a great first step in implementing civic engagement projects. Continuing to include students in the administration of such projects has proven to be a successful way to encourage student participation while also fostering high-impact teaching practices.”

This story was written by Anthony Franklin, a 2023 Spring graduate in political science.