Civic engagement series to begin Fall 2019

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

The Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism will focus on the “civic engagement” part of its name for the next three semesters in the form of a series that will start in the fall.

The “Chasing the American Dream” series kicks off in September and is a way for students to learn about and participate in civic engagement.

Beth Gillespie, the director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said the series is also intended to help educate students about laws, rights and elections, which will help prepare them for the 2020 Presidential Election.

“We started to look at the next three semesters and think about what kind of programming can we do to support the civic engagement half of our name with educating our students and empowering them to know that their voice matters and their voice counts,” Gillespie said. “How do we look at the next three semesters and build in ways that would be engaging and fun but educational for our students?”

Gillespie said the idea for creating the series came to fruition after Alex Martins, a graduate assistant in the office, asked what the office was doing about the civic engagement half of its name.

“I said that’s a really good question. We have done a little bit here and there in pockets, but we haven’t done anything campus-wide with a long view, so that was what started the conversation,” Gillespie said.

Crystal Brown, the assistant director of the office, said this is a way to make civic engagement bigger and more known on Eastern’s campus just as it is on other campuses because it is important for the students.

Gillespie and Brown said the office has a framework so far for how the series will unfold; Brown said the goal is to have an event every week for every month for the next three semesters.

Events include a 30-minute lunch and learn once a month, which is a session where students can eat lunch while learning about different topics like climate change, voter registration or racism.

Other future events include bringing in speakers, tabling events, voter registration drives and hosting a monthly “game night.”

During this game night students will play an “I-civics game,” which is an educational and interactive computer game that sees how much people know about various topics surrounding the U.S. government, the Constitution and America in general.

“(The game) reminds me of an updated version of ‘SimCity’ where instead of building a town or roller coaster, you’re building a law practice and you’re hiring lawyers that have different constitutional amendment specialties, and you’re essentially running this law firm (in the game),” Gillespie said.

She said the plot of the game is that people come into the law firm that the player created with problems.

“So people are coming into the law firm (in the game) saying, ‘The government took my house and put soldiers up. Can they do this?’ and you have to connect them with the right attorney to solve their case, and when you win cases you win points,” Gillespie said.

The game takes 30-45 minutes to complete, and Gillespie said it is fast-paced.

Gillespie and Brown said the office would host a game night to launch the pilot of the game at 7 p.m. on April 16 in Taylor Hall.

Students can RSVP by April 15 at or scan the QR code that is on the flyer promoting the “How Well Do you Know ‘Merica?” competition game night.

As for the series, Gillespie said another intent is to create a space for students to just learn, and Brown said the topics that will be taught go beyond just the upcoming presidential election.

Gillespie said they welcome any and all partnerships across campus to help promote the series and create/host events.

“We do good everyday, but I am really excited about this project and this program,” Gillespie said. “(The series) has potential to positively impact students in a way we haven’t done before.”

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].