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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Speaker series highlights political participation among millennials


The Assistant Professor Excellence Speaker Series presented “Understanding and Building Political Engagement Among Millennials” Wednesday at the Classroom and Business Building. This was the second event in a year-long series featuring assistant professors from a variety of programs. 

The event focused on the 2016 presidential election and discussed the so-called “youth vote” and the lack of participation on behalf of millennials. Featured speaker Suzanne Pritzker, an assistant professor in the Graduate College of Social Work, said that in contrast to the common characterization that young people are politically apathetic, research shows a much more complex story.

“I think there is a lot of … perception in the public that millennials are not a part of the political process,” Pritzker said. “So I think that it’s important for us to understand a little more about what is really going on and for us to understand (and) kind of break down some of the perceptions, but also to talk about and to think about what can we do as a University, in the community to try and (aid the) political process.”

While millennials vote less than their older counterparts, the “youth vote” has increased over the 21st century.

“One thing that stood out to me from Dr. Pritzker’s presentation was the degree to which a lot of  our youth or young adults are already engaged in politics … and are making (an) impact (on) change in policy and in the laws,” said Danielle Parrish, an associate professor in the Graduate College of Social Work.

Pritzker said lower millennial participation compared to older adults is no different than any previous generations.

“Since 1972, when 18 to 21-year-olds got their right to vote, youth have always participated at lower rates than older adults,” Pritzker said. “Millennials today are engaging (in) a great deal of expressive, political activity. There’s a lot of online political activity. Students really (are) showing new ways of expressing political opinions (and) it’s really important for us (faculty and administration) to take (that) into account.”

The series was open to students and faculty and helped create a dialogue about political participation for everyone in attendance.

“One thing that I’m really going to take away from today’s topic is the way that (I) can actually incorporate political activities engagement into my teaching,” said Sarah Narendorf, an assistant professor in the Graduate College of Social Work. “There (are) all kinds of ways that I could be, actually, just in the small things that I’m doing, activating students in ways that I hadn’t thought about.”

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