Through van Assendelft’s political science class this semester, students have contributed to voter registration efforts in partnership with the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, and hosted the first-ever virtual debate watch parties on campus.
They have also created a web hub geared specifically for the MBU student community — some of whom are voting for the very first time — to find objective and reliable information about the presidential election.
Van Assendelft is also lending her expertise to reporters covering the debate around Virginia Question 1 on the ballot this November (regarding whether the Constitution of Virginia should be amended to establish a redistricting commission) through the national Strategy Scholars Network.
In 2017–18, MBU’s Pi Sigma Alpha chapter launched the Model City Council Civic Engagement Project, which enabled students to attend Staunton City Council meetings, mentor high school students, host council members for events on campus, and stage a model city council at Staunton’s city hall. Their efforts to engage with local government were recognized with a national Best Chapter Award from Pi Sigma Alpha that year.
From the local to the national scene, Pi Sigma Alpha members also have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., for the honor society’s annual student research conference.
Dedicated to supporting undergraduate research, van Assendelft helps students prepare to present with practice sessions and consultations before the event. She has developed a model — now used by several other chapters — in which students are encouraged to attend in their junior year to acclimate to professional conferences and prepare to present in their senior year.
“Since we started the MBU chapter in 2014, we’ve had 36 student members. About a third of them have presented at the national conference and one, Elizabeth Bailey, was published in the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Research Journal.
“Members of Pi Sigma Alpha have also been leaders on campus — Allie Ellmauer and Nichole Kennedy were the student leaders for the first Election Live Broadcast. Tamia Baker-Johnson was SGA President. A number have gone on to law school and/or graduate programs, including Francesca Bergeret, Brittany Kondratenko, Todd Mattox, Eshala Bunch, and Madeleine Stout. Pi Sigma Alpha students have been role models on campus, in the classroom, and beyond.”