Civic Engagement Thrives at the USM With U.S. Election Assistance Commission Grant to Support College Poll Workers

USM Also Distributing Civic Education Grants

Baltimore, Md. (Mar. 8, 2024)The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has awarded $78,521 to the University System of Maryland (USM) to fund the System’s work in helping students serve as nonpartisan poll workers in the 2024 election.

The USM will create an election/poll worker resource hub to recruit students from across the System to take part in this work in the upcoming election.

The USM is one of 14 applicants to receive poll worker funding as part of the federal Help America Vote College Program.

“I’m glad that young Marylanders will play an important role in ensuring America’s elections are fair and transparent,” said Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05). “I co-wrote and passed the Help America Vote Act because I know that our democracy is strongest when voters are sure their voice is heard and their votes counted. The University System of Maryland’s selection to participate in the transformational Help America Vote College Program is a testament to the important work they do empowering the next generation of civically engaged citizens.”

Each USM university will receive funding to incentivize students to undergo election judge training. The University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) will take the lead in developing the training modules, in partnership with the Maryland State Election Commission. All USM universities will host recruiting events to attract participants.

Students who complete the training can work in any election precinct and receive compensation. Therefore, the USM will seek to place participating college students in Maryland counties that don’t have easy access to election judges.

“A spotlight was put on poll workers during the last presidential election, and many of us saw—as maybe we hadn’t before—how essential they are to the functioning of our democracy,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “I’m grateful to the Election Assistance Commission and to Maryland’s congressional delegation for this award, which will help our students advance a critical goal: that America continues to hold free and fair elections, foundational to our democracy.”

In separate projects, the USM Civic Engagement Senior Leadership Task Force is distributing two sets of grants to support high-impact civic education and civic engagement Systemwide.

The first set of grants—$152,000 in all—is aimed at developing high-impact practices for civic-integrated teaching; supporting students’ civic learning; and building engagement infrastructure to integrate civic education across USM universities.

The USM awarded $19,000 to each of these universities: Bowie State University, Frostburg State University, Salisbury University, Towson University, the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), UMCP, and the University of Maryland Global Campus.

The second set of grants, $80,100 to nine universities, will help them apply for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement designation, or to maintain the designation. This distinction is a nationally recognized indicator of a university’s dedication to community engagement through its goals and actions.

The USM awarded $8,900 to each of these universities to fund applications for the Carnegie designation: Bowie State University, Frostburg State University, Salisbury University, Towson University, the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, UMBC, UMCP, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Vision 2030, the USM’s strategic plan, sets forth a goal that all USM universities will earn the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement.

“Educating for democracy has been at the center of the USM mission from its beginning. We want our students to be fully prepared to contribute to the civic health of their communities and understand their responsibilities to preserve and protect our democracy,” said Nancy Shapiro, USM associate vice chancellor for education and outreach and special assistant to the chancellor for P-20 education.

“These programs will offer many different models for student learning, student engagement, and student leadership. And one big advantage we have as a System is that we come together regularly to share our best strategies, meaning we can scale what works. President Kennedy once said, ‘The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.’ So at the USM, we’re committed to educating for democracy.”

Work on both of these grants will be conducted over the next calendar year. A final report documenting the results of these efforts will be completed in June 2025.

The USM celebrated its work in civic education with a daylong symposium last November at Towson University, featuring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and drawing on insights from civic engagement leaders throughout the System.

Civic engagement is a strong tradition throughout the USM, as demonstrated by robust voter registration and other on-campus civic events that preceded the 2022 election. Illustrating our strong civic engagement outcomes is the fact that 55 of 141 members of the Maryland House of Delegates graduated from or attended a USM university, as did 16 of the 47 members of the Maryland Senate.


The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.

USM institutions and programs are among the nation’s best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit To learn about the new USM Strategic Plan, “Vision 2030: From Excellence to Preeminence,” visit


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719