Indivisible Northwestern partners with undergraduates seeking the Civic Engagement Certificate


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

A collaboration between Indivisible Northwestern and SESP’s Civic Engagement Certificate Program hopes to teach undergraduates about civic engagement and activism.

Charlotte Che, Reporter

Indivisible Northwestern is partnering with undergraduate students seeking the School of Education and Social Policy’s Civic Engagement Certificate to encourage more students to become civically engaged in their communities. 

INU is part of Indivisible, a national progressive grassroots movement. The NU chapter was created by NU Ph.D. students during the COVID-19 pandemic after the 2020 presidential election. Led by SESP Prof. Matt Easterday, INU’s partnership with the Civic Engagement Seminar involves working with undergraduates on various civic projects intended to teach the specific steps to working as a student activist both inside and outside of the classroom. 

There are five groups — DefaultVeg, two American Rescue Plan Act teams, Get Out The Vote and an events team — all dedicated to connecting and fostering social change at NU and in Evanston. INU Co-president Kristine Lu said the organization is partnering with the civic engagement certificate program to give students more access to research and real-world campaigns.

“We’ve been trying to think (about) how we can improve civic engagement education in innovative ways so you’re not just learning these things in the class but actually talking to Evanston community members and City Council members,” Lu said. 

Certificate-seeking Weinberg sophomore Lily Ng’s group is focused on interviewing Evanston residents about the city’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The group is emphasizing speaking with community members who may not normally be civically engaged because of reasons like historical mistrust of the government. 

Ng said working with INU has broadened her understanding of civic engagement.

“We learn about theory and different strategies on how to mobilize people but it feels a little different than what I was used to,” Ng said.

INU is focused on building momentum and interest from the Evanston community toward a participatory budgeting campaign. The group hosts events for students to practice  policy writing, canvassing and speaking directly with community members.

Projects like the campaign allow students to think about civic issues they care about and explore their skills with hands-on experience, according to Lu.

Undergraduate students focused on their own projects and met with INU during class last quarter. Students will take their knowledge outside of the classroom this quarter to attend and run some of INU’s meetings. 

“It gives them a way to practice the organization and mobilizing skills that you really would not get to do unless you’ve been in an organization for several years or building from scratch,” Easterday said.

According to Lu and Co-president Gus Umbelino, INU’s mission is to develop civic leaders and serve as a learning environment where students can access action-oriented opportunities. 

Although there is already an Indivisible chapter in Evanston, Lu said INU feels other political groups on campus and around the community have not yet addressed the education of civic skills and how to grow as student activists. 

“Sometimes there is a gap between practice and research, and we are trying really hard to close the gap as much as possible,” Umbelion said. “We want to be part of a group to make a change ourselves.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charlotteche03

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