Springfield, Ohio – As the United States presidential election of 2016 heats up, Wittenberg University will welcome back one of its own in Wylecia Wiggs Harris, class of 1982 and current chief executive officer for the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) in Washington D.C., to deliver the keynote address during the 166th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 14.
Dr. Harris is expected to give the class of 2016 a sneak peek into the 58th U.S. presidential election that will take place on Nov. 8, 2016, and issue a rallying cry to students for engagement and the importance of keeping “your voice” as you journey through life.
“Find your passion. Is it fighting for those that are being kept out of the process by new restrictions? Or would you love to see more young people and members of underrepresented communities brought into the system by helping to register voters?” asks Dr. Harris, who plans to reach out to Wittenberg students and enlist their help in making our country better. “Our state and local Leagues need more dedicated individuals – they want to tap your power to help us create a more perfect democracy. They need more people to help register voters, they need more voices to speak out about needless restrictions on eligible voters, they need more people to share VOTE411.org with their friends and families, they need help making sure things go smoothly on Election Day.”
Dr. Harris says this is a pivotal election with so much on the line. There is no incumbent President, there is a battle for control of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Supreme Court and legislative bodies at every level are up for grabs. She says that our electorate has seen shifting demographics with simmering questions about equality and power and that 2016 will be the first Presidential election without important Voting Rights Act protections. There are new voting restrictions in place in key states.
Dr. Harris, who has 30 years of experience in organizational development, was a top choice to present this year’s Commencement address. She graduated from Wittenberg with a bachelor’s degree in biology and sociology and received her M.B.A. in management from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1984. She received her doctorate in organizational development from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minn. Named as chief executive officer of the LWVUS in September of 2015, she brings many years of seasoned leadership experience, a passion for organizational development and a commitment to excellence to the League.
“The senior class officers are humbled and honored to welcome Dr. Harris back to her home here at Wittenberg to address the graduating class of 2016,” said Kayla Villegas, president of the class of 2016. “Dr. Harris is an inspiration to all - living out her passion daily and ensuring strong leadership for voters and women everywhere. Her commitment to relationship building is quite reflective of Wittenberg's spirit, and I hope her vitality for continued education and engagement around politics, physical, economic and public health is duly noted. We are eager to spend our final day at this university with Dr. Harris, a highly-respected alumna who is certainly living out the Wittenberg mission daily.”
Having served as executive director, chief operating officer, and chief of staff for a variety of organizations including the American Nurses Association, American Heart Association, and Sister to Sister – Everyone Has a Heart Foundation, a national organization supporting women’s health issues and heart disease education, Dr. Harris jumped at the chance to lead the LWVUS. She is excited to be returning to Wittenberg to speak about her new endeavor.
“It is my distinct honor to accept the invitation of the class of 2016 to deliver their commencement address,” she said. “How timely that I return to Wittenberg, the birthplace of my civic engagement roots, during my first year as the chief executive officer and executive director of the League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund.”