Office of Civic Engagement

Director’s Message for Spring 2024

From the Desk of Director Anita A. Ruf-Young 

Greetings, Vikings! 

At the Office of Civic Engagement (OCE), we champion the importance of active citizen engagement within our campus community and beyond. This commitment is a cornerstone of Cleveland State University (CSU), which proudly stands at the heart of Cleveland, embodying the ethos of 'Engaged Learning.' This ethos is reflected in the diverse learning experiences we offer, including programs like Viking Corps, America Reads, and Democracy Fellowships. 

The Fall 2023 semester was a period of bustling activity for the OCE. On the community front, we successfully placed 70 CSU students in paid tutoring positions across 14 Cleveland Public Library branches, various Cleveland Metropolitan School District sites, including Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School, two Teen Refugee Response High School locations, and the Heights’ Library branch. Our website now showcases a video featuring our dedicated tutors, their students, and the educators at Davis A&M High School, offering a firsthand glimpse of the impactful difference our CSU students are making. 

In total, our tutors engaged in 3,247 tutoring interactions with local youth, contributing a significant 3,586.20 hours of service at our partner sites during the Fall 2023 semester. CSU students interested in joining these community efforts are encouraged to contact me directly or visit our recruitment tables for CPL America Reads and Viking Corps, which will be set up on campus starting the week of January 15, 2024. For specific dates, times, and locations, please refer to our website. 

We are also pleased to announce the completion of our Campus Democracy Action Plan for 2024 - 2025. We are optimistic about once again receiving the Highly Established Action Plan recognition from the ALL IN Democracy Challenge following its review in early 2024. Our ongoing commitment to disseminating voter information forms the backbone of this plan, a testament to our dedication to fostering informed, active citizens. This commitment has consistently earned the CSU OCE the ALL IN Most Engaged Campus award for college student voting. 

In 2023, the OCE hosted over 38 voter registration and information tables, successfully registering 512 students and completing 518 vote-by-mail applications in collaboration with our partner, Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates. During National Voter Registration Day on campus, we registered an additional 50 students and processed 27 vote-by-mail applications in just 3 hours. We also sponsored parking at the Cleveland Asian Festival, where we set up voter registration tables, registering 21 community members and completing 64 vote-by-mail applications. 

For the Fall 2023 semester, the OCE prepared 1,115 voter registration and vote-by-mail information packets for 50 sections of CSU’s First Year Experience ASC 101 course. This initiative complements our Vikes! Vote curriculum, which culminates in a call to action for students to register to vote, update their registration, and apply for vote-by-mail, if desired. We extend our gratitude to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for providing the necessary forms for our newest Vikings. Throughout 2023, the OCE continued to be a sought-after local resource for nonpartisan voter and election information, contributing to interviews with, Axios Cleveland, Signal Cleveland, and Cleveland Conversations. 

The OCE also mentored three Democracy Fellows through the Campus Vote Project - Jack, Kaylee, and Justin. During the Fall 2023 semester, these Fellows actively recruited Election Night Ballot Box Openers for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (CCBOE), created educational videos about voting logistics, and highlighted paid involvement opportunities for Election Day. Their efforts were instrumental in recruiting 94 Election Night Ballot Box Openers for the CCBOE for the May Primary, August Special Election, and November General Election of 2023. This initiative provided students with the opportunity to experience "Democracy in Action" and earn additional income. 

In Fall 2022, the OCE and the CSU Men’s Basketball team established a civic and community partnership. This collaboration began with the team attending our local government official civic dialogue and progressed to us accompanying the team members to the polls, some voting for the first time. Building on these initial collaborations, we have since united in serving the community, particularly in addressing food insecurity, with visits to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and, more recently, the St. Augustine Hunger Center. We eagerly anticipate the future developments of this winning partnership. 

On September 22, 2023, the OCE, in partnership with Values in Action, hosted the Kindland Summit at CSU. The Summit, organized by various CSU departments and Values in Action, convened Northeast Ohio leaders from key community sectors to engage in dialogue. We initiated the Summit with a call for donations to CSU's Lift Up Vikes!, and the overwhelming response reflected the generosity and kindness inherent in our community. A special shout-out to Shoes and Clothes for Kids for their generous donation following the Summit. 

As we reflect on the significant local elections of 2023, including Ohio Issues 1 and 2, the OCE is already gearing up for the 2024 election cycle, including the Presidential Election on November 5th. We have planned 14 voter registration and vote-by-mail tables for the Spring 2024 semester, and we encourage you to stay informed about our election-related activities via our updates. 

This Spring, the OCE will continue to place tutors in the community and engage in voter preparation for the March Primary and November Presidential Election. Our commitment to fostering mutually beneficial partnerships remains a core tenet of our work, and we look forward to forging new relationships this semester. 

Anita A. Ruf-Young 
Director, The Office of Civic Engagement 
Cleveland State University