UNCG Democracy Fellows Prep Spartans For The Voting Booth

Posted on March 04, 2024

UNCG student holds up voting buttons

As the 2024 election gets underway, several UNC Greensboro students are making sure their fellow Spartans are educated when it’s time to enter the voting booth.

“Voting is extremely important, especially for young people,” says Jia Emaus, one of the University’s four Democracy Fellows in UNCG’s Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement. “A lot of the issues that are being decided heavily impact young voters.”


The UNCG Democracy Fellows meet ahead of the Primary Election.

Democracy Fellow is a paid position that works closely to support civic engagement and voter education on campus. The four students work about 10 hours a week and assist with voter registration drives, support at polling stations, and lead “Voting 101” workshops.

“This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” says Emaus, a third-year student double majoring in political science and liberal and interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in international and global affairs and development.” I usually focus on international politics, but I wanted to broaden my studies and experience domestic politics as well. The position is perfect for me.”

Ahead of the Primary Election on March 5, the Fellows have been busy with “Voting 101” workshops, making sure students know the difference between multiple elections, how to register, and where to vote.

The purpose of the Democracy Fellows is not to sway students into voting a certain way, but to encourage the act of voting overall.

“The response from students has been very positive,” says Emaus. “UNCG, in general, is very civically active so they have already been really engaged with the process.”


Democracy Fellow Maricarmen Vargos-Santos says, as a first-generation American, voting holds special meaning for her.

UNCG has been recognized for its commitment to voter education, receiving the Highly Established Action Plan Seal for 2024 from the All In Campus Democracy Challenge, recognizing the university’s work to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement by promoting civic learning, political engagement, and college student voter participation. The University has also been designated as a 2023-24 “Voter Friendly Campus” and was voted one of the best colleges for student voting by “Washington Monthly.”

As a first-generation American and college student, Maricarmen Vargas-Santos says being a Democracy Fellow holds special meaning for her.

“I was intimidated by voting because I was the first one to vote in my family, so I had no idea about the voting process,” she says. “So, I want to help other students who may feel that way, especially incoming freshman, whose parents never were able to vote themselves.”


Vargas-Santos, a third-year student studying public health education, says her first generation status makes voting an even more important act.

“It’s a really special moment,” she says. “When my parents saw me vote for the first time, they had a whole photoshoot because they were so excited. It’s not just your voice, it’s the voice for them too. They don’t have the option to vote.”

To request a “Voting 101” workshop from the Democracy Fellows, email lead@uncg.edu. The workshop lasts for about one hour and is ideal for student organizations, classrooms, and smaller group sessions.

“The more people who don’t vote, the more quickly we lose our voice,” says Vargos-Santos. “And we need to get our voice back.”

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by David Lee Row, University Communications
Featured photo by Martin W. Kane

UNCG students carry a vote sign down the street.

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