CU Engage: Civic Engagement at Columbia University

CU Engage is a nonpartisan civic engagement initiative, created by University Life and the Office of Government and Community Affairs. CU Engage is supported by a committee of Columbia students and staff, who share opportunities and resources to help you take an active role in shaping our local, national, and global community.

What Is Civic Engagement? 

Voting in elections, organizing friends and neighbors around an issue, writing to your elected officials, or learning or debating a topic are some of the ways that you can get involved to build the world you wish to live in. The events and resources below are opportunities for you to have your voices heard. 

Please consider taking up these opportunities to learn more and get involved.

These resources can help you prepare to vote, learn about the candidates on your ballot, know your rights, support friends navigating the election system, and more!

Get voting information and resources for local NYC elections and by state. Learn how you can register to vote, vote by mail, or vote early on Columbia’s campus.

Learn about candidates and find out when & where to vote during early voting and on Election Day. Enter your address to get started.

Keep this guide handy to learn more about the voting laws in your state or use it as a reference to support a friend who comes from out-of-state.

Learn about VoterID Laws, raise awareness about their impact, and support all eligible voters in making their vote count with VoteRiders.

This non-partisan organization supports U.S. citizens overseas and Uniformed Services members to ensure their voices are heard in elections. This is a great resource if your educational journey takes you out of the United States during election season!

If you have been convicted of a felony, this resource can help you determine if you are eligible to vote right now. It also provides information about the process to restore your right to vote.

  • Any voter can call or text 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) to get information about voting and to report problems they encounter when voting.
  • The hotline and website is available in multiple languages:
    • Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)
    • Asian Languages/English: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
    • Arabic/English: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)

This resource page from ALL IN to Vote provides information on your rights, emotional support and empowerment, and where you can turn if you face discrimination at the polls.

Civic Engagement Opportunities and Resources with University Life

Social Justice Mini-Grant Program
Social Justice Mini-Grant Program

An opportunity with University Life to share your innovative ideas that aim to address social injustices, including efforts to bring awareness to racial, economic, educational, access and other forms of inequity.

Awakening Our Democracy
Awakening Our Democracy

Hosted by University Life, this conversation series covers disparities and justice issues at the forefront of the University's and the nation's consciousness.

Volunteer with Community Impact
Volunteer with Community Impact

Founded in 1981 by two Columbia University students, Community Impact is dedicated to serving the Morningside Heights, Harlem, and Washington Heights communities.

Promoting Social Justice & Combating Bias
Promoting Social Justice & Combating Bias webpages

Created by University Life, these web pages provide resources focused on combating bias and promoting social justice (at Columbia and beyond).

More Civic Engagement Opportunities and Resources

Find and contact elected officials at

  • The Office of Government and Community Affairs (GCA) is the University’s primary liaison with federal, state, and local government, as well as with residents, community leaders, and civic organizations in our surrounding neighborhoods. 
  • GCA supports voter registration and offers stipends for undergraduate students pursuing Congressional internships.
  • GCA at CUIMC provides information about policy developments affecting the CUIMC community and coordinates community service in the Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhoods.

Columbia Neighbors connects the University with Upper Manhattan communities. Check out their resources and events pages to get involved.

The Holder Initiative hosts events about social justice issues that are open to all students.

The Knight Institute defends the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age. Check out their research, upcoming events and educational resources.

Education programs, research projects, and events by Columbia Global Centers offer an opportunity to engage with the world’s most pressing issues.

ICAP, a leader in global public health, offers internship and fellowship opportunities for students in healthcare, public health and related fields.

Take a deeper dive into understanding election-related issues and regulations.

plane flying around a globe

I am an international student at Columbia University. How can I be civically engaged while I am in the U.S.?

Community service is a great way to become civically engaged. Volunteering for nonprofit organizations or organizations dedicated to causes you care about are all ways you can get involved. 

Many academic programs at Columbia offer Service Learning courses, where you can get academic credit while serving in the community. 

As an international student, you can advocate for a cause you're passionate about. Advocacy work can include letter writing, making phone calls, or lobbying at the local, state, or federal level. 

There are many ways you can learn about civic engagement and participate in civic discourse with your peers. Discussing the issues you care about or recent events highlighted in the news with your peers is a great start. You can engage with others across political differences and seek to understand one another. You can also learn by watching town hall or political debates with others and discussing your thoughts on candidates and their stances. You may also want to learn about political polarization and the impact it has on U.S. politics. 

Some questions for consideration:

  • What is an issue you care about? (For example: climate change, immigration, healthcare, education)
  • Research political processes in your home country. Are you able to participate in your country’s political process from abroad?
  • What issues in U.S. politics might impact you during your time at Columbia?

Every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census to determine the number of people living in the United States. As an international student you are asked to complete the census. The next U.S. Census will take place in 2030.

running shoes
Run for Something Day & NH Primary

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Help America Vote Day

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

US Capitol Building
State of the Union Address

Thursday, March 7, 2024

two american flags
Constitution and Citizenship Day

Tuesday, September 17, 2024

Form with pen
National Voter Registration Day

Tuesday, September 17, 2024

black people lining up to vote
National Black Voter Day

Friday, September 20, 2024

sand time
Vote Early Day

Tuesday, October 29, 2024

holding hands
Election Hero Day

Monday, November 4, 2024

person voting
Election Day

Tuesday, November 5, 2024