More than 250 years after legendary diplomat and statesman Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania, Penn students today are fully activated in the sphere of civic engagement. Penn Leads the Vote is a student-run and award-winning non-partisan organization that increases voter registration and engagement on campus. 85% of Penn’s student body voted during the 2018 midterm elections, and the All In Campus Democracy Challenge granted the University with the organization’s “Most Engaged Campus for Student Voting Award” in 2022.
When President Liz Magill began her tenure as Penn’s 27th president in 2022, she enthusiastically supported PLTV’s efforts to increase voter engagement. PLTV is committed to Penn reaching 100% student voter registration by 2028. A lofty goal, but one which Cory Bowman, Associate Director for Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, believes can be reached with the unique skill sets and abilities that Wharton students bring to the table. “Although we have a long way to go before we reach 100% voter registration on campus, I think Wharton students in marketing, operations, and other Wharton fields could contribute significantly to advancing this work,” says Bowman.
How Wharton Gets Out the Vote
Meet Tvisha Malik, W’23, now an Investment Banking Analyst at Lazard, who served as Penn Leads The Vote’s Coordinator for Internal Partnerships during her time at Wharton. Although Malik hails from Houston, she remains passionate about the importance of voting during Philadelphia’s local elections. “During your time at Wharton, you are a part of the broader Philadelphia community, and your actions have an impact on the community as a whole,” Malik explains. “Take a deep look at what issues exist, especially on a local level. Decide to take a stance on something. Getting involved in the community and local politics is important.”
Every election season, Penn Leads The Vote members like Malik are hard at work ensuring that all students are able to secure their right to vote, no matter which side of the political aisle on which they land. As mentioned by Bowman, skills valued in the business world and by Wharton translate well to the community-based work espoused by Penn Leads The Vote.
Persistence, effective and persuasive communication, and a solution-oriented mindset are all tools that Malik deployed during her work getting out the vote on Penn’s campus and in the West Philadelphia community. “I made a lot of calls to City Hall on behalf of other people,” says Malik. “Whether it was students or community members who experienced issues at the polls, all they had to do was call me, and I would immediately reach out to local representatives to say ‘hey, here’s the situation, here’s what I know about election law,’ and I was able to offer help on the spot. Because no matter what your political leanings, I believe it’s important to just stay in line and make sure that you can vote.”
And Philadelphia, often described as the birthplace of American democracy, is “one of the best places to vote,” according to Malik. This, combined with the clear impact demonstrated by Wharton students in these efforts, is why Penn Leads The Vote and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships are actively seeking two – three Wharton students for paid leadership roles to work within the organization.
The Value of Wharton’s Expertise
In Spring 2023, students from Wharton Professor Anne M. Greenhalgh’s McNulty Leadership Program Management Group presented to Bowman, Penn Leads The Vote, and other leadership from across the University. Using data analytics they learned in class, they spoke on the tangible value that Wharton students bring to increasing civic engagement on campus. After reviewing the results, Bowman made the immediate decision to establish a number of opportunities for both undergrad and MBA-level Wharton students within Penn Leads The Vote.
With both their findings and sentiments guided by Wharton’s data-informed approach, the students from Greenhalgh’s class presented a vision in which Wharton is not just a leader for civic engagement on Penn’s campus, but is also a leader amongst other top business schools across the country. “We will strongly benefit from the Wharton expertise of analytics, marketing, and all of the different disciplines in which Wharton students execute exemplary work during their time on campus,” says Bowman. “Tvisha exemplified these qualities during her time with Penn Leads The Vote. A creative problem solver, she organized, she communicated, she helped, helped with everything; leading, creating calendars, reaching out to other networks across campus, and keeping our efforts laser focused on our goals.”
The vision presented by Bowman, Malik, and Greenhalg’s management students reflect a broader aspiration for Wharton’s future with civic engagement; for the School to not only be helping to lead at Penn, but also among other top business schools nationwide. Wharton students are creative problem solvers who organize, communicate, and work cohesively towards common goals. Together, they can offer an enduring commitment to Franklin’s call for a thriving republic.
– Grace Meredith
Posted: October 26, 2023