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Anniversaries of voting amendments will draw focus on citizenship, suffrage during WUmester

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From The Ichabod - Winter 2020

In an election year, census year and year that celebrates milestone anniversaries of the right to vote in the United States, the theme of this year’s WUmester, citizenship and suffrage, is not only timely, but important. Washburn University will make the topic prevalent in many of its courses and events this spring semester.

2020 is the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 15th Amendment, which gave voting rights to black men in 1870, and the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which gave voting rights to women in 1920. Washburn will be a part of the national discussion surrounding these anniversaries.

“On top of that, questions surrounding citizenship and immigration – who counts as American – have been very much swirling in the public sphere and on campuses across the country,” said Kara Kendall-Morwick, associate professor, English.

The idea for WUmester came from Washburn’s academic diversity and inclusion committee as an effort to bring together discussions in and out of the classroom concerning issues of diversity and inclusion. The inaugural WUmester in spring 2019 covered freedom of speech and expression.

“WUmester came about as a way to bridge different parts of the Washburn community and foster an in-depth, extended conversation,” Kendall-Morwick said. “We are hoping to harness the energy surrounding these topics and engage our campus in important conversations about them.”

Kelly Erby, assistant dean, College of Arts and Sciences, and associate professor, history, is chair of the academic diversity and inclusion committee that coordinates WUmester.

“We want to consider citizenship and suffrage broadly,” Erby said. “What has citizenship and suffrage meant in this country, but also in other countries, and how has it changed over time? How has citizenship been used to bond people to their nation and how has it also been used to exclude people?”

Discussing citizenship is especially important to the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion, according to Melisa Posey, program coordinator.

“We’ll think about citizenship in a broad sense of who belongs and who doesn’t belong,” she said. “I'm not sure everyone feels like they belong. I hope that they do, but I think that is precisely how our office came to be on a campus. I think colleges and universities were realizing they had a lot of work to do around a growing, more diverse population.”

Several panel discussions will bring together Washburn faculty and other experts on topics related to the theme. A photography exhibit at the Mulvane Art Museum will showcase important black women in history. Exhibits by the American Bar Association and the League of Women Voters will look at the 19th Amendment. Various course offerings will visit the theme, as will film showings and other presentations.

“Research shows that if you can connect co-curricular events back to academics and back to the classroom, both the classroom experience and co-curricular experience can be more meaningful for the students,” Erby said.

The hope is to challenge the student or attendee across many academic disciplines.

“One thing I hope will happen – and we did see it happen last year with the free speech topic – is, we have a topic that everyone thinks they have some familiarity with,” Kendall-Morwick said. “But, as we dig deeper into that topic and look at the different ways it has been defined, contested, reshaped, how it differs from one part of the world to another, from one person's experience to another, students, I hope, will really start to see complexity in that seemingly straightforward concept, and see how it connects with their own lives and experiences and how they have something to say about this topic that is worth hearing.”

WUmester Spring 2020

WUmester 2020 logo

WUmester is intended to foster a University-wide conversation on a diversity-related topic that will change each spring semester. The goal of the program is to engage the entire Washburn community in a collective learning experience on timely subjects and help students see the connections between the subjects they study in the classroom and real-world debates and problems.

WUmester logo

Full schedule of WUmester events


More of The Ichabod's coverage of WUmester:

Driving Discussions: Anniversaries of voting amendments will draw focus on citizenship, suffrage

Stunning Collection: Mulvane acquires photos from Pulitzer Prize winner’s book

Fighting Words: Washburn alumna active in national suffrage work prior to 1920 amendment

Party Lines: Bi-partisan efforts better equip students for citizenship roles

Celebrating Suffrage: Alumnus brings awareness, access to roles of citizenship


The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

View past editions


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