Laura Rativa '19 Southwestern is proud to announce that Laura Rativa ’20 has been named a 2019 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, the largest national higher-education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement. Rativa, a communication studies and political science double major, is one of the 262 students awarded a one-year fellowship for her leadership and commitment to finding solutions to challenges facing communities throughout the nation and abroad. Honoring the late Frank Newman, a founder of Campus Compact who was a tireless advocate for civic engagement in higher education, the fellowship will provide Rativa with a variety of learning and networking opportunities, an invitation to the national conference of Newman Civic Fellows, and exclusive scholarship and postgraduate opportunities. The fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

The president of Southwestern University’s College Republicans and an instrumental force behind Southwestern’s recent Voter-Friendly Campus initiatives, Rativa recently shared her thoughts on the rewards and impacts of civic engagement at Southwestern and beyond.

I am passionate about law, leadership, and service. At a young age, I learned the importance of civic engagement and the common good, which is an integral part of my servant–leadership. I like to guide my peers to join me in trying to make our community a better place. I enjoy helping others and trying to better the places I go to.

Promoting civic engagement at a campus like Southwestern University is more impactful than at other schools because the small size of the campus benefits how fast the word goes out about being engaged with the community in different ways. It is important to promote civic engagement at SU because the students here are willing to give their time to organizations around the community. The only thing one has to do for the students at Southwestern is present them with opportunities of civic engagement, and they will respond with an exciting “I will be there!”

Something that impresses me about the Southwestern community is how collaborative different organizations are with each other to achieve a common goal. Most recently, as president of SU’s College Republicans, I worked closely with the Democratic club president to address the importance of voting in the 2018 midterm elections. We engaged local politicians running for office to motivate the community to vote and support driving effective, long-term civic engagement.

Our collaborative efforts began during the summer, when we attended the Texas Voting Summit, hosted by TX Votes in partnership with the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, at the University of Texas at Austin by receiving an invitation through Southwestern. Over 100 student leaders from various campuses attended the summit. It was a great experience where we supported one another, and ultimately, we competed to develop a plan for our respective campus communities. Our plan detailing SU’s campus plans and events to encourage voter registration and turnout rates was awarded first place!

My motivation and potential to develop innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing public problems come from my diverse background. I have been fortunate to have been exposed to three different cultures in the Americas by having lived in Colombia, Panama, and the U.S. A U.S citizen, native from Colombia, I moved to the U.S. not knowing any English in 2013. I worked hard to learn the language, and two years later, I started to get involved with criminal justice courses. I had always had an interest in the law and the pursuit of social justice. Taking political science and communication studies courses at Southwestern has empowered me to continue being involved in something bigger than myself while considering the different factors that impact the thinking and behavior of a person. I have the opportunity to intern with Congressman John Carter and Judge Stacey Mathews this semester, which helps me learn more about how to solve people’s concerns and how to help those in need. After graduation from Southwestern, I plan to go to law school to become an attorney, and I plan to be involved in pro bono cases.

The advice I give to all students—including future Southwestern students—is that when you are involved in civic-engagement activities, do not only think of what you are doing for the people but also how one’s own life changes because of them.