Boxes of mini Crumbl cookies lined the tables and a Kahoot about women in politics illuminated the big screens. With desserts in hand and a desire to support women, the members of Augustana’s IGNITE chapter were ready to kick off their first meeting of the semester.
On Sept. 28, IGNITE held an inquiry-style meeting. Junior Lauren Teller, president of Augustana’s IGNITE chapter, said the meeting introduced new and returning members to the board and informed attendees of IGNITE’s mission.
“I just wanted people who were interested to come meet us and get their input into events,” Teller said.
The IGNITE board members hope to foster civic engagement among Augustana students and encourage women to explore opportunities in government.
“I really like the message that it really focuses on women and empowering them in political positions,” sophomore Angelica Morales, IGNITE treasurer said.
IGNITE is a national organization that originated in Oakland, California, in 2010. According to ignitenational.org, they have trained more than 20,000 women “to discover and flex their political power.” The group also focuses on connecting young women with political ambition, building community and leadership development.
Augustana’s IGNITE chapter is in its second year on campus and is the only South Dakota chapter.
Teller said she thinks IGNITE will help all young people, but especially young women, learn about political and civic opportunities.
“I ran for [IGNITE] president because I think that young people should be made aware of the opportunities that are there for them, that are available to them,” Teller said.
When Teller told freshman Amy Kim to consider joining the club, Kim assumed the organization was specific to Augustana.
“This is much bigger than I thought,” Kim said. “During the first meeting when Lauren showed the website, I was like, ‘Oh, okay, this is something worldwide.’”
Kim said she became even more intrigued with IGNITE once she learned of the organization’s large scale nature.
“It’s something that I want to heavily commit myself to,” Kim said.
However, Teller said meetings won’t be the norm for the Augustana IGNITE chapter. She foresees the group collaborating with the Augustana COUPS government club and hosting speakers, movie nights and a panel of women political leaders in the spring.
“I think the approach we’re taking is more like, event heavy,” Teller said.
Junior Annaliese Wagers, the vice president of IGNITE, said club gatherings create a system of support for women who are considering political futures.
“I think when women are running for office, it kind of feels a little lonely just because you’re surrounded by so many men. Having a group like IGNITE is just like that female support that you need,” Wagers said.
While the IGNITE organization is targeted towards empowering young women, the Augustana chapter board said everyone is welcome to join the club.
“I also want to emphasize that it can be for women and it can also be for people who are non-binary,” Morales said.
Morales also said men can join IGNITE to learn different ways to help support women in politics and to observe the difference between the treatment of men and women in government offices.
Teller said the club is open to all students regardless of major, but currently, many members are government majors.
“You don’t have to have a lot of experience to feel like you can know what’s going on in order to harness your political and civic power,” Teller said.
Wagers, Morales and Teller said the Sept. 28 meeting was just the beginning for IGNITE’s 2022-2023 season.
“I think our big goals for IGNITE this year are to grow our presence on campus and host more events and get more people interested and involved,” Wagers said.
IGNITE’s first meeting was followed by a voter registration drive in the Morrison commons last week, which was a testament to the club’s growth and commitment to students.
Members helped Augustana students from varying resident states register to vote. Most states have shifted to online registration, but Teller said South Dakota uses paper forms. Before fall break, the club will take all of the registration forms to the Minnehaha and Lincoln county auditor’s offices.
The Mikkelsen library also has a voter registration table through Oct. 19. Teller said the table has a dropbox for physical voter registration forms and a laptop so students from out of state can look up the specifics for their state’s online registration.
“Helping students realize that it’s actually pretty easy to vote even if you’re hundreds of miles away from your home has been pretty good,” Wagers said.
According to Wagers, most states’ registration process only takes about five minutes.
While many individuals believe one vote won’t make a difference, Teller said she still encourages all students to get out and vote in South Dakota’s Nov. 8 election.
“You have to recognize that sometimes you’re not voting for yourself,” Teller said. “Maybe you’re voting for others that you do care about. These issues are going to come back to affect you one way or another, but they’re also going to come back to your community.”