Bridgewater College Professor Secures Grant to Boost Voter Education and Engagement

A female student wearing a B-C votes shirt and holding a sticker that says every vote counts

Students at Bridgewater College will have more opportunities to get involved in voter education and registration thanks to Dr. Bobbi Gentry, Associate Professor of Political Science at BC.

Gentry is one of six members, groups and chapters in the U.S. and the only one from Virginia to receive a $20,000 grant from the Scholars Strategy Network’s Election Protection and Enhancement Program. The program, now in its second year, provides funding for best practices that improve, increase participation in and build trust in elections. In its pilot year, Gentry was one of eight to receive a grant from SSN, which she used to create The Valley Votes Project. The project includes a website and speakers series focused on building trust and improving confidence in elections.

Bobbi Gentry

With the second grant from SSN, Gentry will pursue an 18-month project titled “BC Votes: Creating Civic Leaders of Tomorrow.” The project will expand the work done by the Valley Votes Project and support a series of initiatives designed to encourage voting in Virginia elections and the development for future election cycles.

“I am honored to receive this grant to help promote voter education and voter registration at Bridgewater College. Empowering students to be civic leaders is central to this grant,” said Gentry. “By creating a program with peer-to-peer contact and students educating and engaging with other students about the elections within Virginia, we are implementing best practices in promoting the student vote. Young people who participate in an election in early adulthood are more likely to participate after they leave college. This opportunity allows Bridgewater College to promote democracy on our campus and in our community.”

A portion of the grant directly supports designating Bridgewater College students as Civic and Community Engagement Scholars. As scholars, BC students will register voters, spearhead voter education efforts and organize other voter engagement efforts to ensure their peers and members of the community are confident and informed voters. Four Bridgewater students have been selected for this grant-funded opportunity: Sebastian Kochall ’27, Jordan Mongold ’27, Tony Nesselrodt ’24 and Katelyn Yoder ’24.

“I got involved because I wanted to make a difference. Voting is important, and I want to help people access the important information they need to vote,” – Sebastian Kochall ’27, history major from Woodbridge, Va.

“I decided to become involved as a Civic and Community Engagement Scholar because it aligned with my interests and was a way to become more involved in my major. Through this program, I hope to promote voting and further inform those on campus about it. I also hope to create a community where there’s a space to discuss current events and politics in a civil way.” – Jordan Mongold ’27, history and political science major from Dayton, Va.

“Voting stands as the paramount instrument through which my fellow students can effectively express their voices within our political landscape. It is my steadfast belief that effective change is within reach for all, and the perception that one’s vote lacks influence can have adverse consequences on political participation. In my role as a Civic and Community Engagement Scholar, my objective is to inspire my fellow students to actively participate in the electoral process and become vanguards of a generation that instigates constructive transformation within our community.” – Tony Nesselrodt ’24, history and political science major from Brandywine, W.Va.

“I think that as citizens, it is our responsibility to participate in democracy. We have the power to make our nation one that we are proud of. I hope to one day live in a nation that prioritizes justice, acceptance and peace. Voting is one of the most direct ways I can pursue these interests by electing officials that advocate for my values. Whatever your values may be, it is important to make your voice known by casting your ballot during election season. There is a lot to care about in the world, and, as young people, we hold a particular responsibility to chart the path of our nation’s future. I know that with the help of the Civic and Community Scholars, and the expertise of Dr. Gentry, there will be much greater civic and community engagement in the near future at Bridgewater College.” – Katelyn Yoder ’24, political science major from Manheim, Pa.

In addition to being awarded an SSN grant, Gentry has added Bridgewater College as a partnering institution in the Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition, a national hub of campus, nonprofit, community, student and philanthropic leaders who help student voters get more involved in democracy.

Bridgewater will participate in SLSV’s Ask Every Student initiative. Ask Every Student facilitates collaboration between campus leaders and nonprofit partners to help campuses ask every student to participate in the democratic process and achieve full student voter registration.

By Logan Bogert