In 2020, the voter registration rate for Virginia Tech students was 73 percent, according to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement. This was above the national average of 66 percent.
Of those Virginia Tech students registered, 90.7 percent voted in the 2020 presidential election.
As part of her duties as director of the Hokies Vote Caucus, Mahdi organizes voter registration drives, educational events with other student organizations and discussion dialogues.
Discussion dialogues, open to both students and faculty, are guided conversations about topics and conversations that may be considered difficult or challenging.
“Our society today is very polarized, and we have students and faculty who don’t feel comfortable expressing their views and talking to people who have different opinions than them,” Mahdi said. “Our mission is to teach students how to have conversations about those differences and how to value those differences instead of seeing them as some kind of barrier to change.”
Any student or faculty member is welcome to participate in Deliberative Dialogues and other Hokies caucus events. All Hokies Vote Caucus members are trained as moderators to ensure everyone remains equal in the conversation and civic engagement remains civil.
In May, Mahdi was one of 82 college students nationwide named to the ALL IN Student Vote Honor Roll 2022. The honor recognized students for their nonpartisan voter engagement efforts on campuses across the country in 2021. Mahdi joins students on participating campuses who are advancing enrollment, education, and nonpartisan student voting participation efforts and ensuring equal access to voting.
Jes Davis, associate director for VT Engage, serves as faculty advisor for the Hokies Vote Caucus. She said that she was impressed by the work that Mehdi was able to do during the last year and a half.
“She really wants to make the world a better place, and she sees voting as one of those steps to do that,” Davis said. “Our department gets a lot of credit for the civic engagement things that we do, and I’d say three-quarters of it wouldn’t be possible without her, and the things that she’s been able to dream about in some the last. years.”
While events like these increase civic engagement, Mahdi said her main goal is to change the way people talk about voting and elections and civic engagement at Virginia Tech and make it a stronger influence in the university’s culture.
“It is part of the university’s duty to educate students in any way,” Mahdi said. “Virginia Tech is able to say that when you graduate from our university, you don’t just graduate with the knowledge of management. You also leave with knowledge about our society, how to create positive change in your community, and how to stay connected to your community.”
Written by Savannah Webb ’23, intern for the College of Liberal Arts and Humanities