Josh Voigt

Josh Voigt

When Wartburg College junior Josh Voigt speaks, those around him usually stop and listen. For starters, his South African accent is often cause for curiosity throughout the Midwest. On campus, though, the student body president has developed a reputation for using his voice to ensure others can be heard.

That reputation, along with a nomination from Wartburg President Darrel Colson, caught the attention of Campus Compact’s Newman Civic Fellows selection team, which named Voigt and 261 others across the U.S. to its 2019-20 cohort.

Voigt, who came to Wartburg from Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, said his experiences at the international school, which serves more than 600 students from 60 nationalities, showed him what the world could look like, how people can be represented and how a school can function to ensure that everyone feels represented.

“The thing that drives me the most is for those people who have also come from places like that, how can I try to get their voices heard, alongside mine, to create that kind of environment,” he said. “So, while other people focus on volunteering and getting stuff done that way, I like to focus on big picture stuff and also making sure there are projects that make people feel like they have not only the right but the responsibility to make things happen.”

Prior to his role as president, Voigt served on the Student Senate’s diversity committee as a member and then the executive assistant for diversity, where he helped develop and organize Peace Dialogues and sought ways to visually display the diversity on the Wartburg campus, which boasts students from 53 countries.

“Josh stepped into leadership roles from the first moment he arrived on campus,” wrote Colson in his nomination. “During his presidency, Josh has continued to facilitate dialogue and discussion on inclusion, race and diversity. He identifies systemic challenges that make students’ lives more difficult, and then he sets about to overcome them.”

Most recently, Voigt saw his work find success in a reduced summer housing rate for all students, understanding that it is most often his fellow international students who struggle to find affordable housing close to their summer jobs. Though his original idea for a visual showcase of the culture on campus was not found feasible, his persistence to find an alternative solution kept the topic top of mind for the college’s Marketing and Communication and President’s offices. Later this year, a Luther Hall hallway update will include flags from each of the countries represented on campus.

“These are the people I live with, these are the people I’m friends with. I listen to daily conversations about the unique hardships that some people face, and more often than not, frankly, I don’t have to face those,” he said. “But, I also understand that I am someone who can influence and change people’s minds. So, I don’t think it’s fair for me to look at my situation and say, ‘There is something I can do about this,’ and then not. My desire to help stems from looking at people, understanding their stories and knowing there is probably something I can do about this, or at least I can try.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional, and civic growth for students who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership and an investment in solving public problems. Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The fellowship also provides fellows with access to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

“We are proud to recognize each of these extraordinary student leaders and thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with them,” said Andrew Seligsohn, Campus Compact president. “The stories of this year’s Newman Civic Fellows make clear that they are committed to finding solutions to pressing problems in their communities and beyond. That is what Campus Compact is about, and it’s what our country and our world desperately need.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.