Sam Jacobs accepts position into Newman Civic Engagement Fellowship

Rachel Matuszewski

If you remember the “GVSU Votes” signs that lined campus lawns back in November, this was just one

Courtesy / GVSU

project behind Grand Valley State University junior and public relations administration major Sam Jacobs’ role and passion for voting engagement on campus. He has recently been nominated and accepted a position with the Newman Civic Engagement Fellowship with President Philomena Mantella’s recommendation. 

The Newman Civic Engagement Fellowship is a program connected to the nationwide nonprofit, Campus Connect. According to GVNext, the Newman Civic Engagement Fellowship will provide learning and networking opportunities for personal and professional growth. Jacobs will join 200 other students in the year-long program. 

“The Newman Fellowship is intended to recognize and support students who have exhibited the potential for public leadership through their civic engagement work and commitments,” Mantella said. “We have a committee of civically engaged students and staff that coordinate a call for nominations to the campus community and then we carefully review those candidates to select one that most closely aligns with the criteria set forth by Campus Compact.”

Mantella said Jacobs stood out as a candidate for the fellowship due to his steadfast commitment to increasing voter turnout. His past experiences as a student senator, a current member of the Campus Activities Board and earning the Eagle Scout honor all demonstrated his commitment to public service. 

Jacobs knows his work in the fellowship will align with what he has been doing on campus to continue institutionalizing voter resources, voter education, and positive dialogue on campus. His dream job is to work as a city manager and eventually run for office in Michigan.

“I really want to be a city manager and just engage in a community, not just through voting but through community development programs, housing, and getting citizens to engage and give back to the community,” Jacobs said. “It’s a really big part of my philosophy of how government and leadership should work.” 

Until his nomination from a friend and official nomination based on the committee’s choice by Mantella, Jacobs did not know if he would be considered for the fellowship. In his current role as Campus Election Engagement Project Fellow in the Office of Student Life, Jacobs has been hard at work encouraging students to vote in the past 2020 election. He was involved in planning the GVSU Election Day Celebration, where students were encouraged to vote absentee on the day of the election through the satellite clerk’s office on campus in Kirkhoff. 

“That was our main focus and we tried to point people to that as they had motive already,” Jacobs said. “We actually had handouts and giveaways at the clock tower to engage students and point them down to where the satellite clerk’s office.”

Jacobs posted signs on campus and assisted with virtual events, including Tea Time and the Democracy 101 lecture series. Tea Time is a conversation-style talk show where GVSU alumni turned experts on various topics to discuss, such as their first show on the postal service. The Democracy 101 lectures carry a formal structure, beginning with a presentation and followed by group discussion.  

“In my eyes, (the fellowship is) a continuation of the work I’ve been doing so far in my college career with voting,” said Jacobs. 

Jacobs will begin virtual training in August and hopes to see everyone selected for the fellowship convene at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts in the spring of 2022 if COVID-19 guidelines allow. He will also be paired with a mentor who aligns with his professional interests and personality, with the committee having the final say. 

“I think it will benefit me now by giving me a lot of those opportunities to learn and grow in that professional sense to be able to put it on my resume,” Jacobs said. “I feel like that for every experience I have, it’s much more than just putting it on your resume. It’s what you learn and what you are able to take away from that experience and apply to other experiences.”