A Voting Challenge: Former Morgridge Center Intern’s Passion in Getting Out the Vote

An interest in politics and campus engagement familiarized Anna Barry with the name of the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Barry, a 2019 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science, found herself frequently being referred to the work of the Morgridge Center, but couldn’t find an existing organization to engage in voter work on campus. 

Anna Barry
Anna Barry

In 2018, she heard about the Big Ten Voting Challenge, a collaborative nonpartisan initiative created to spur civic engagement and encourage more students across the Big Ten to head to the polls on election day.

“When I read about it online when it was first announced, I was so excited about it,” Barry says.

Seeing what vote initiatives the other Big Ten schools were rolling out had Barry intrigued, interested and looking to get involved. Barry’s curiosity lead her to email the Chancellor’s Office to inquire more information about the Big Ten Voting Challenge.

However, by the time Barry would get a response from the Chancellor’s Office, the Morgridge Center was already in the process of leading and forming a committee with campus and community partners, planning voter efforts and events and looking to hire a Big Ten Voting Challenge intern.

Barry’s involvement in Associated Students of Madison (ASM) and its collaboration with the Morgridge Center was the first step to realizing how she could get involved with voting efforts on campus. Applying and receiving the Big Ten Voting Challenge internship was just the beginning.

As a student, Barry was the president of the Political Science Student Organization, and found herself working closely with ASM and other political organizations on campus. One of her first task as the Big Ten Voting Challenge intern was to create a convergence for all of the separate voter initiatives on campus. Greek organizations had voter drives and partisan student organizations had individual initiatives, but there was no nonpartisan organization to connect all of these efforts.

Involvement in city council elections, acting as a field director for a state assembly race and managing city council campaigns reaffirmed Barry’s passion for politics and community engagement. She noted how interest in the work of the then-titled Big Ten Voting Challenge Committee was low at first, but once they started engaging more community and campus partners and student organizations, it began to take off.

“We brought in leaders from all kinds of organizations, and it wasn’t just College Democrats and College Republicans. We brought in all of the [politically-engaged] groups on campus that are more at the fringe,” Barry says. “They often get forgotten, but they are so important as little pieces of the student body so getting all those folks together really pushed our efforts forward.”

After graduating in 2021 with a master’s degree from the La Follette School of Public Affairs, she landed a job at the American Institutes for Research. Barry expressed how the Morgridge Center reinforced her passion for nonprofit work and how important it is to understand a workplace’s mission and values.

2018 Big Ten Voting Challenge Advisory Group
2018 Big Ten Voting Challenge Advisory Group

“I didn’t just say ‘I want to work for your company because it is cool.’ I want to work for your company because of the great work that they do,” Barry says about how the interviewing process went for her current role. 

Barry’s current title is a research associate in education systems and policy. She works on a range of nonprofit policy projects such as federal social media platform management to speaking with teachers and working on developing policy and recommendations for state education departments. She shared that one of her favorite aspects of her position is the flexibility and creativity that comes from working in a massive company, that she is able to pick and choose projects that sound interesting to her and would allow her to channel her passion.

Since moving to Washington D.C., Barry has met many UW alumni and colleagues — that like her — have a little Memorial Union chair on their desk.

“It’s been awesome,” Barry says of her supervisor who is an alumna. “It’s been a really cool part about the nonprofit world because I’ve met so many Badgers.”