According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, Virginia Tech's voting rate has increased 15.1% since 2016 to 73%. With a voter registration rate of 90.7%, it is clear that Virginia Tech students care about voting and civic engagement.
Maya Mahdi has played a role in this. She was the driving force behind establishing the Hokies Vote Caucus, a new student program in VT Engage, focused on non-partisan civic engagement for students. The leadership position that Maya holds allows her to help educate her fellow Hokies about registering to vote, how to vote, how to take an active role in their communities, and how to engage in dialogue for social change.
Her nominator wrote, “Maya is an extraordinary student, servant leader, and human being. Maya’s tenacity for learning and growth is unmatched. She has helped to drive VT Engage's civic engagement work during the tumultuous 2020 and 2022 elections in the midst of the pandemic. Maya took that in stride and continued to offer opportunities for students to learn.”
Maya said, “Civility is the pursuit of genuine understanding. Whether that is through community service or activism or engaging in respectful conversation, we practice civility in our everyday lives. Open-minded listening, genuine curiosity, and pursuit of understanding are crucial in tough conversations. First and foremost, respect includes acknowledging and appreciating the humanity of the person sitting across from you. Demonstrating respect is about listening and asking questions that improve understanding. It takes hard work to ask questions that do not confirm your own beliefs, but aim to clearly understand opposing viewpoints.”
In addition to her work as director of Hokies Vote Caucus, Maya has been a leader in Step Up, engaging students in community service and organizing events about social justice topics. She was a WorkElections fellow for the Campus Vote Project and virtually registered 350 students as poll workers. She worked with College Mentors for Kids, connecting with low-income children to inspire growth, confidence, and brighter futures. And she was an assistant teacher at the Vienna Arabic Language School, where she taught children ages four to six elementary Arabic and Islam.
Maya describes herself as “A philosophy, politics, and economics major and statistics minor with an interest in voting rights, judicial processes, and constitutional law.” A third-year student, Maya hopes to work in the civil rights nonprofit sector after obtaining a master's degree in public policy.
I am pleased to present Maya Mahdi with the Aspire! Award for PRACTICE CIVILITY.