Joanna Woodson, is a Social Work major and Spanish minor at Western Carolina University. Joanna exemplifies an approach to civic engagement, which embodies civic innovation that establishes and sustains foundations for expanding partnerships across party lines, demographics, communities, and amongst individuals in a way that inspires, includes, and involves others. She brings with her the idealism and dreams needed of our youth, the perseverance and tenacity needed of our leaders, and the balance and tempered approach demanded of thoughtful change makers. At WCU, we believe that civic engagement is one of the core elements included in what we think defines a successful student experience. WCU wants our students to be informed, educated citizens prepared to participate in the civic life of our university, region, state, and world. The commitment and efforts of Joanna are examples of the kind of engaged students we hope to inspire. Finally, through her leadership experiences Joanna has developed the tact and approach which comes with developing ideas, articulating perspectives, and living her values in real-world, real-impact ways.
In order to heal social wounds, more activists and everyday citizens must step out of their comfort zones to build connections with others who are dissimilar. As uncomfortable as that may be, and as resistant as our initial reaction may be, I believe it's critical to develop these relationships. As the founder of Western Carolina University's Student Democracy Coalition (SDC), I try to emphasize this importance through everything the organization does. SDC is the only nonpartisan organization on campus which brings together people from all different demographics and ideologies to discuss ways to solve social issues-issues ranging from ballot access to accessible healthcare for all. As a team, we brought the university's very first polling place to campus-a wildly successful endeavor which provided for a county-wide increase of 2,000 voters. The reason for the SDC's success is the network of interconnection we've built across the region and throughout the university. I believe everyone has a role to play in service and civic engagement, and I try to empower everyone to claim their stake in the community. The world changes one person and one healthy organization at a time.