Faculty, staff and students gather at Alumni House for election gala



By Amelia Orwick and Judah Taylor

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As Kentucky closed its voting polls at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the UK Alumni House opened its doors as around 50 students, faculty, staff, administrators and children filed into the ballroom to watch election results develop in real time.

The gala designed to teach students about the electoral processes in a meaningful and fun way.

“A lot of learning works better when people are having a good time … and are responding to social rewards instead of just grades,” said Stephen Voss, an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the UK political science department and organizer of the gala.

“This is what we call a teachable moment,” he said. “Having this big election makes people interested in a lot of subjects that they would normally consider abstractions. And they’re learning things about the political system that they’ll remember their whole lives.”

Voss was also involved in pre-debate panels put on by Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media program and Center for English as a Second Language for the first and second presidential debates, and said that the university was trying to “milk all the events” for their educational value.

Voss invited the members of his “campaigns and elections” class, which is offered only once every four years, to attend the gala.

Shelly Trautman , political science and history junior and a member of Voss’ class, was excited to receive the opportunity to vote in her first presidential election, and to watch the results roll in while surrounded by other politically engaged people.

“It’s really exciting to be able to vote for the president, just because it’s a right that not everyone has around the world,” Trautman said. “To be able to vote so easily is a big deal.”

As she watched Ohio and Florida alternate between blue and red on the television screen provided for guests’ entertainment, Trautman commented on the close race.

“It’s nerve-wracking, because one night can change the future of America to the extreme,” she said. “You can’t trust anything except the final vote in the end.”

Gala attendees came from many walks of life. In attendance were professors and students, democrats and republicans, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. All were Americans who came together to see who they were going to elect to be the next president of the United States.

Pooja Reddy, a psychology junior and first-generation American was excited to watch the results come in with other Americans and learn more about the how elections work in the United States.

“Politics and American culture are really intertwined,” she said. “Being able to watch the results with other politically active people is a good alternative to watching alone.”

The UK political science and history departments, Pi Sigma Alpha honorary society, the Center for English as a Second Language, the Honors Program, the Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media program and the College of Arts and Sciences sponsored the gala.