Ben Ellgen, has demonstrated leadership in civic engagement throughout his career at Winona State University. He has worked in several ways to encourage his fellow students and the broader community to become more thoughtful, critical, and responsible participants of our democratic communities. He has served as a Government Relations Intern with Students United, the organization which represents students attending Minnesota's seven state universities, and as a a trained moderator for National Issues Forum and has served as moderator for several deliberative events, both on and off campus. Ben also served as a Campus Election Engagement Project Fellow in 2018, working on voter registration, voter education, and GOTV (Get Out The Vote). He organized student and faculty volunteers from a variety of campus organizations (American Democracy Project, Campus Democrats, Campus Republicans, and Students United) and manned tables every week for voter registration. He oversaw the volunteer schedule, making popcorn, and tallying voter registration forms completed. He also compiled and distributed information for students on political issues and candidates so students would be better informed and prepared to vote. During the last week leading up to the election, Ben worked in the residence halls to encourage people who had registered to vote to show up on election day. Ben conducts himself in a professional and nonpartisan manner. This can be very difficult, particularly during heated and divisive elections. Ben maintains his focus on getting voters registered and informed, so they can participate in the political process.
Far too often we fall short of living up to our civic duty. With chronically low voter turnout amongst college-aged youth, it often seems that many just do not care. Having studied and developed a passion for politics and history, I have seen how government policy can affect our lives for the better or for the worse. It is essential for all of us, regardless of our beliefs, to have a say in who represents us and how our country is run. That is why I believe it is important to take steps and get everyone involved in the political process. In partnership with the Campus Election Engagement Project and the American Democracy Project, I worked with many others ahead of the 2018 Election to register hundreds of students to vote, offer nonpartisan educational materials, and even provide rides to the polls. Connecting with individuals on a personal level by drawing the connection between political participation and the lives we live is essential to addressing the issues of apathy and polarization that our society faces.