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UW-Stevens Point graduate making student voting more accessible

June 27, 2024
Roy Thorson, a May 2024 UW-Stevens Point MBA graduate, will continue his education next fall at Florida State University College of Law.
Roy Thorson, a May 2024 UW-Stevens Point MBA graduate, will continue his education next fall at Florida State University College of Law.

Whether it has been a mock trial, or an internship taken on a whim, Roy Thorson has made the most of every opportunity he’s been given.

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he found his purpose in promoting civic engagement and increasing student voter turnout while earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration with triple minors in political science, law and policy and music.

That work didn’t stop as he continued his education and earned a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from UW-Stevens Point in May, and it will continue this fall as he begins to earn his juris doctorate degree at the Florida State University College of Law.

Thorson found his passion in politics and law in high school after a friend convinced him to join mock trial club. Enjoying and excelling in his first year as a lawyer for the club, he continued to win multiple awards throughout the state the following year. Thorson knew then he wanted to pursue being an attorney as a career.

Despite living close by in Wausau, his first year at UW-Stevens Point took place online due to COVID-19. That turned into an advantage for him, however, as the flexibility of being remote through COVID allowed him to take a higher course load as a commuting student and graduate in three years.

Due to the limited involvement opportunities at the time, when he received an email from Professor Jennifer Collins in 2020 about an internship through Campus Vote Project involving promotion of student voting on campus, he applied on a whim.

Stemming from the internship, Thorson and a small group of students founded Pointers Vote Coalition with guidance from Collins. The nonpartisan student group works to spread awareness and participation of student voices within local, state and national politics.

“The main goal is to increase student voting at UWSP,” said Thorson. “Figuring out how we go about doing that’s a lot more difficult, so I started this work with just that goal and that drove it.”

Roy Thorson worked to encourage student voting while an undergraduate at UWSP.
Roy Thorson worked to encourage student voting while an undergraduate at UWSP.

In addition to serving as president since the club’s inception, he has participated in tabling events aimed at registering students to vote and providing them with information about candidates and what is on the ballot. Since then, Thorson has pushed the organization to tackle bigger issues, such as passing legislation through UWSP’s Student Government Association to have access to a free campus-wide education course on civic engagement.

His work of going above and beyond saw him recognized in the 2024 ALL IN Student Voting Honor Roll. Thorson’s most recent and largest win, however, was passing legislation and receiving the necessary approvals to create voter-compliant student IDs across campus.

“That’s been the next huge step that we’ve taken towards institutional policy of removing these barriers that don’t need to be there,” he said.

The change did not come quickly though. Thorson says while it was a lengthy two-and-half-year process involving stakeholder analysis, business negotiations and fundraising, he is proud of how much progress has been made.

“I could not have asked for a better student leader to take the reins of civic engagement work on campus,” said Collins. “Roy is an outstanding leader who has made his mark on our campus in ways that will endure.”

Although Thorson is someone who jumps headfirst into most opportunities in life, he was hesitant at first to join UWSP’s MBA program. Meeting with Associate Professor Lyna Matesi during an event, he was impacted by how she explained the value he would receive from it and how drastically different the experience is from undergraduate work.

Thorson’s MBA fellowship entailed working as the Student Advisory Board Chair and Wisconsin Representative within Campus Vote Project. He came to the table wanting to put in more than expected of him and bringing fresh, practical ideas to life, all while gaining the experience he needed for his fellowship and undergraduate capstone.

“The MBA program is there for you,” said Thorson. “It’s applied learning, and you come out better on the other end. You get out of it what you want to and what you put into it.”

Thorson shared that the biggest benefit he has seen within his personal growth and experiences has come from feeling confident in his abilities to hire an effective team and coach the next generation of students to be set up for success within the Pointers Vote Coalition.

“It is cool to know that I’m now sitting in a spot where maybe none of my peers are in law school,” he said.

Reflecting on his overall college experience at UWSP, Thorson said, “That level of feedback with an education made me feel like I was like the most important student, even though every student feels that way. For undergrad, I enjoyed that I got a solid education at a good price that got me where I needed to be.

“It got me to my MBA program. It got me to law school. And it allowed me to still have the time and flexibility to do fun things. I have a minor in music that doesn’t relate to my career in the slightest, but I did it because it’s fun.

“To have the flexibility to be able to do that without breaking the bank terribly and without suffering grades and understanding and knowledge of my core classes in political science and business. I don’t know that you get that everywhere.”

Not one to miss another opportunity, Thorson’s career aspirations include starting his own law firm.