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ASU students hone political engagement expertise at national conference

Zachary McCutcheon
October 04, 2015

Arizona State University students Andrew Sypher and Zachary McCutcheon traveled to Harvard University last week as part of a national effort fostering youth political engagement. They joined students from 22 states from Sept. 25-27 at Harvard’s Institute of Politics for “Campus Activation: Increasing Student Voting and Political Engagement,” an intensive training and conference featuring top political practitioners.

Sypher is a junior studying political science in the School of Politics and Global Studies and public service and public policy in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. McCutcheon is a junior studying public service and public policy with a concentration in law and policy.

Led by the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, ASU has been a partner in the Harvard Institute of Politics’ National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement since 2013. The consortium of 27 colleges and universities around the country work on their own campus and collaboratively in three key areas: electoral politics, career development in public service and civic education. 

At the annual conference, students from National Campaign schools focused on voter registration outreach techniques. They also received grassroots organizing training and learn to use technology for political engagement. Conference trainers include professionals with expertise in government, voter mobilization, communications, social media and marketing. 

Both Sypher and McCutcheon are already engrained in civic engagement. As a Spirit of Service Scholar, Sypher is part of a team mentoring Camelback High School Students.

“We are teaching them how to apply their values and passion to societal issues,” he said. “This spring, we’ll be working with them to take their ideas to build public awareness for the issues they see impacting their high school.”

McCutcheon said he draws on past experiences in national camps and as an intern for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“I’ve been really involved in the political process,” McCutcheon said. “I want people — particularly students — to understand that they can have an impact.”

Sypher and McCutcheon said the goal was to come away with new ideas, something that hasn’t been tried on the ASU campus.

“We have voter registration tables, but we want to find out what other campuses are doing to drive engagement,” McCutcheon said.

“This is an opportunity to learn what specialists in this area are doing and how they are doing it so that I can be a better activist in my community. It is also a great opportunity to network to see how we can collaborate,” Sypher said.

Andrew Sypher

Andrew Sypher is a junior at Arizona State University studying political science.

"The IOP is honored to host students from across the country who will create the future of politics by driving political and civic engagement," said Harvard IOP Director Maggie Williams. "This conference and training seminar will help foster political participation both here at Harvard and at National Campaign schools throughout the nation."

“This experience is one of the many hands-on opportunities for students that will fall under the newly established Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “We want students to embrace engagement in electoral politics. We want them to push innovative ideas forward and advance how we think about – and implement – public service to better our communities.”

Some of the goals for students attending participating year include issuing recommendations for government, media, campaigns and educational institutions to promote political and civic engagement; collecting and making available key research; and creating new training opportunities for organizations and individuals seeking to promote youth engagement and participation. 

“This really is an honor and I want to be a good representative for ASU. We want them to know that ASU is making headway in civic engagement,' " Sypher said. "We are actively engaged and are changing our community.”

For more information on the Harvard IOP program, visit

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