SUNY Oswego junior Lauren Fitzgerald earned a 2020-21 Newman Civic Fellowship, a national honor for outstanding community service, for her work with Vote Oswego and other civic efforts.

Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education, coordinates the yearlong fellowship program that provides training and resources to future leaders.

“Lauren’s civic participation is extensive and inspiring,” SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley wrote in a letter of support. “She is skillful at mobilizing her peers -- the largest voting bloc in this country -- to collectively use their voice and engage in the electoral and political processes. Lauren has been involved with many grassroots campaigns and voter mobilization efforts, most notably Vote Oswego.”

Established within an upper-division political science class, Vote Oswego lets students work in a non-partisan way on registration, awareness and inviting students to follow through on voting. Its efforts have resulted in a surge in participation rates for students and national recognition.

“I want to make sure our age demographic is engaged in politics,” said Fitzgerald, a dual major in political science and in global and international studies. “I really believe in the impact organizing has for our generation.”

Fitzgerald played a key role in Vote Oswego’s success. “She recruited and managed volunteers to operate a five-day voter registration blitz that registered over 1,000 students to vote in the 2018 general election,” Stanley noted. “As a result of these efforts, the voter turnout rate increased by 300 percent.”

Fitzgerald is a supporter of voting rights and believes in “making sure people are using their voice,” no matter their voting preference.

“Beyond her personal political action, Lauren believes in building bridges and creating spaces for diverse perspectives to be heard,” Stanley noted. “Her commitment to such efforts is rooted in her desire for everyone’s voice to be heard, regardless of their political party." 

Supportive faculty

Political science faculty members Lisa Glidden and Allison Rank nominated Fitzgerald, and the award recipient credits SUNY Oswego’s political science department for making so much possible.

“I know all my professors by their first names,” Fitzgerald said. “The department has given me the opportunity to do hands-on work in the office. They’ve given me the opportunity to do grassroots work on campus.”

For the spring semester, Fitzgerald earned a highly competitive and fruitful internship in the office of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“They treat me like an actual staffer, not an intern,” Fitzgerald said. She gets to attend hearings, sit in on key meetings and write memos -- and already has had the distinctive opportunity for a college student of helping to draft legislation that might become law.

In addition to her current internship, Fitzgerald has worked for New York State Nursing Association on programs and its political action committee, and has been involved with a number of political campaigns. 

Her future plans involve law school, with a goal of becoming an environmental lawyer or an attorney working on women’s rights issues.

“Lauren’s dedication, vision and collaboration have contributed to a more inclusive, well informed and engaged campus community,” Stanley wrote. “She has been a role model for many students to become more active citizens and community members. Lauren’s dedication to civic engagement has created a lasting impression on the college and community that will continue long after she graduates.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Fellows are nominated by their president or chancellor on the basis of their potential for public leadership.

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides students with training and resources that nurture their skills and passions and help them develop strategies for social change. The yearlong program, named for Campus Compact founder Frank Newman, includes virtual learning opportunities and networking as part of a national network of engaged student leaders and an optional in-person convening.

Lauren Fitzgerald during her internship with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

This spring, Lauren Fitzgerald is interning in Washington, D.C. in the office of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.