Skip to main content

Message to Students

October 1, 2020

Dear Northwestern students,

Voting, activism and service are cornerstones of civic engagement and community involvement. With so much happening in the world, responsible civic participation is important as ever — and something we value and encourage as a Northwestern community. It can enhance your impact as a scholar and practitioner, advance your personal and professional development and enable you to help build stronger and more socially just communities. Through voting, activism and community service and engagement, you can make a difference.


Election Day is Nov. 3. If you are eligible to vote in the United States, voting is your right. If you are ineligible to vote in the upcoming U.S. federal elections, but still wish to get involved, there are ways for you to participate in civic engagement beyond voting

We encourage all students who are eligible to register to vote or update their registration. The Center for Civic Engagement’s NUVotes has online and in-person resources to help you do this.

Through NU Votes, Northwestern’s 50-state voter engagement initiative, you can:

Review and Update your Registration
Access Live Support
Receive In-Person Support

Over the past decade, Northwestern consistently has been named among the top universities in the nation for student voter turnout. The constraints imposed by the pandemic make it even more important that you know what you need to do to ensure your voice is heard this November.


Engagement often involves amplifying voices and actions. We know there are great societal risks for many communities, and we encourage you to be engaged global citizens to the extent you are able. We encourage you to find meaningful ways to get involved and advocate for causes you believe in — and to do so safely. If you choose to participate in a demonstration, protest or other forms of in-person activism, we expect that you will take the proper health precautions to protect yourself and others, just as you would in any other context, and that you adhere to the COVID-19 expectations for students whether or not you are on campus. For more information on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 during in-person protests and demonstrations, see the CDC’s considerations for events and gatherings.

Remember: if you or others with whom you interact exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 (as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), or if you recently have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person activities. Instead, identify ways to support your cause by participating virtually or supporting those who can attend in person.

Education, Community Service and Engagement

The work of scholarship around civic engagement, activism and community service is being done every day.  On  October 1, we held a panel discussion with Northwestern experts from across campus called, “Where do we go from here after the Breonna Taylor Verdict: Gender, race and the future of social movements.” 

The world is incredibly rich in culture and history and filled with people and organizations that work to improve communities for the betterment of all. Service to others and to these organizations is one way you can contribute to this work. It may take time—especially in current circumstances—but we encourage all of you, during your years as a student and beyond, to find ways to make a sustained commitment to contribute to and to establish and build reciprocal relationships with your local community through community service. 

Social change requires listening, learning, unlearning and sustained partnership. Northwestern maintains pathways for community engagement for Northwestern students to engage with the Evanston and Chicago area, but whether you are in the States or another country, there are ways for you to support the campus community in civic pursuits. We know that for many of you, recent events have created stress and anxiety. Please know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available for all students, including those living on campus and those living off campus or at home.

Belonging to a community is among the most important, challenging and rewarding endeavors any of us can undertake, and a healthy society depends on its community members’ abilities to actively exchange ideas, connect across differences and collaborate on common goals and challenges. That makes earnest participation and engagement in government, our institutions and within our communities increasingly vital. Together we will make the world better for all.

Thank you, 

Rob Donahue
Interim Director, Center for Civic Engagement

Mona Dugo
Interim Dean of Students

Brent Turner
Executive Director of Campus Life