The primary purpose of my research is exploring how students can become more civically engaged. The CivWiz app has been in development in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion since my freshman semester four years ago, and now it is in its testing and development stages. The trivia questions are intended to help increase the civic knowledge of the users. My research will help us make adjustments in the CivWiz fellowship in which the fellows develop and review questions for the app. It is believed that by even just working on the development of the game the fellows will increase their civic engagement ability.
Civic engagement is important because it strengthens the ties between community members. Civic engagement includes being involved in community organizations such as churches, veteran’s groups, chambers of commerce etc; volunteering; voting; engaging with policymakers locally, statewide, and nationally; and advocating for improvements in your neighborhood.
My hope through my research is that I can encourage others to become more civically engaged. I also hope it will help develop ways for students to learn about civic engagement, the impact they can have, and how Pitt as an institution can make civic engagement more accessible and interesting for everyone in our community- students, staff, faculty, and members in the surrounding communities.
In presenting my research findings there are several considerations that I must be mindful of. First, my audiences might differ and in reaching those audiences, I have to ensure that the language and style of writing I am using is accessible to my target audiences. My primary audience is fellow students. I want to encourage them to become more civically engaged. Reaching students takes a different form of publication than academic writing. I could reach them through an op-ed, social media infographics, or public speaking more effectively than a research article. The language also has to be quickly read and impactful, not in-depth expert analysis of data. Other audiences might include the surrounding community of Pittsburgh residents who would more easily be reached through other public forums. It would be important for this information to be at an 8th-grade reading level, as this is the level most public writing should be done at. The last audience I would be writing for is Pitt program managers like my research advisors in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Ron Idoko and Monica McNeil. My findings could be useful for faculty to develop strategies to increase civic engagement throughout the university and student-body. This writing would most likely take the form of a memo with short,skimmable paragraphs and bulleted data. This easy-to-digest format would be useful for busy administrators as they are clicking through emails or referring back to the memo when they are in brainstorming and planning stages of programming.
One vitally important thing I learned in this fellowship is that it is just as important to be inclusive and mindful of how you present data visualization like charts, graphs, and maps just like you would with writing. The language and data in visualizations can have an impact on how your findings are used, so it is important to ensure they are unbiased, accurately represented, and labels are inclusive and not centering any demographics as ‘normal’.