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How to Keep Montana College Students Engaged Post-Election

With the election over, eyes turn to the Montana legislative session and other political gatherings. (Drew Tarvin/Flickr)
With the election over, eyes turn to the Montana legislative session and other political gatherings. (Drew Tarvin/Flickr)
November 21, 2018

MISSOULA, Mont. – Voting soared among students in Montana and across the country for the midterm election. But now that the election is over, what will keep them engaged in politics and civic life?

Campus Compact, an organization that works with colleges and universities to get students engaged in elections, hopes it can help answer that question.

The Montana chapter of Campus Contact, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, helped turn out student voters in the Treasure State.

Josh Vanek, associate director of the group, says with the election over, schools are still the perfect place to get young people involved.

"Engaging with public life has lots of different elements,” he states. “Students are very motivated to make the world a better place, and we see higher ed as having a huge facilitating role for this, and classrooms in particular being good venues for students to work on public issues."

Montana Campus Compact joined the consumer group MontPIRG in the lead-up to the midterms to get students involved, through voter registration assistance, nonpartisan voting guides and other support.

The organization has started a nationwide initiative known as Education for Democracy, which is connecting students with civic life outside of elections.

Vanek says now that the fanfare of the election is over, the daily grind of governing begins, in public meetings and the upcoming Montana legislative session. But he says this is no less important than the election.

"Perhaps not as 'in your face' as your thinking about the wide variety of things – like how do we use our public land, how do we make our city a good place to live – these huge questions that folks deal with on a daily basis," he says

The state legislative session begins Jan. 7.

Montana Campus Compact is offering $1,000 scholarships to students who are civically engaged while studying at universities and colleges that are part of the compact.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT