Democracy Fellows at James Madison University play a key role in fostering active citizenship and constructive discourse on campus. Each Democracy Fellow is placed on a working team that spearheads initiatives aimed at promoting civic learning and engagement among students, faculty, and the greater JMU community. Responsibilities include guiding students through challenging difficult dialogues to cultivating common ground, contributing significantly to the Dukes Vote initiative through voter registration drives and community events, representing JMU as a student ambassador at high-profile events, and much more. Additionally, they play a pivotal role in organizing civic engagement events, town halls, and workshops, ensuring the campus community is well-prepared for upcoming elections through unbiased information dissemination. Democracy Fellows come from all majors on campus.

Ai Vy Le Headshot
Ai Vy Le

Ai Vy Le is a junior Political Science major with dual minors in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies and Legal Studies on the Pre-Law pre-professional track. During her time at JMU, she has served as an Orientation Peer Adviser, NCAA Student Athlete Tutor, an Honors College Teaching Fellow, a Student Leadership Center Leadership Counselor, SGA Senator, and has worked for the Madison Center as a Campus Vote Project fellow. For the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, Ai Vy will also have a seat on the College of Arts and Letters Alumni Board Student Advisory Council, participate in the Honor Fraternity Phi Sigma Pi and Pre-Law Fraternity Phi Alpha Delta, and outside of academics and professionalism, Ai Vy enjoys spending time with the JMU Club Swim Team, hiking and spending time with friends. Ai Vy has a deep rooted passion for amplifying student voices and working with younger undergraduate students that are new to their rights and civic duties.

Aidan Heitt
Aidan Heitt

Aidan is a senior Communications major with a concentration in Advocacy Studies and a minor in Political Communication, from Baltimore, Maryland. Along with serving as a Democracy Fellow for the center, Aidan is a Fellow for the Campus Vote Project. In his time at JMU, Aidan was a Political Correspondent for Breeze TV, where he closely followed the 2021 Virginia Gubernatorial election, and has been a member of the Omega Epsilon chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi since spring 2021. Aidan is passionate about fostering an environment where people feel comfortable participating in civil dialogues and sharing their personal beliefs while still respecting the opinions of others. He is a strong believer in uplifting marginalized communities often overlooked in society and advocating for voting rights.


Annika headshot
Annika Thompson

Annika is a sophomore Art major who is currently applying to the Graphic Design program at JMU. She first began working with the Center for Civic Engagement through the FYRE (First Year Research Experience) program as a research assistant where she worked on the "Bridging Wicked Divides" project and helped present at the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement conference in Boston. This year she is continuing to work with the center as a Democracy Fellow and is excited to be part of Dukes Discourse and to hear about students' opinions on a variety of issues. Aside from working, she is an active member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and enjoys boxing and taking classes at UREC in her free time.

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Caroline Woodson

Caroline is a sophomore Political Science major with a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies from Chesapeake, Virginia. Along with serving as a Democracy Fellow for the center, Caroline is also a senator for the Student Government Association at JMU. She is passionate about voter education and accessibility on college campuses and in general.  

Emma Niland Headshot
Emma Niland

Emma is a senior Political Science major with a minor in Business Spanish. At JMU, she is the founding President of the JMU chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society with a focus on the role of American citizens in the future of U.S. Grand Strategy. Outside of JMU, she has completed multiple internships, including one for U.S. Senator Joni Ernst in her D.C. office, the Hudson Institute as a Non-Resident Research Intern for the Center of Political-Military Analysis under Dr. Richard Weitz, and abroad in Valencia, Spain, for Fundación Mainel, a non-profit organization that works on social projects and infrastructure development in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. This semester, Emma's passion for thoughtful youth engagement in the political world will serve her in her contributions to the Dukes Vote Podcast.

Emma Sellers headshot
Emma Sellers

Emma is a sophomore Anthropology & International Affairs double major with minors in Latin American & Caribbean Studies and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Emma served as the 2021-2022 Virginia Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) State President, and spent 2 years on the Virginia FCCLA Board of Directors. Through her involvement with FCCLA, she has had the opportunity to lobby with several Virginia Congressmen on the behalf of Career and Technical Education. She also had the opportunity to complete the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Youth Advocacy Institute where she found her passion for advocacy and civic engagement. At JMU, she has been an active participant in the Madison International Residential Learning Community, JMU Valley Scholars Program, and the Anthropology Club.

Leia's headshot
Leia Surovell

Leia is a senior Anthropology major with minors in Honors Disciplinary Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and it's their third year working for the Madison Center. Along with serving as a Democracy Fellow with Civic since Fall 2021 after presenting a proposal for an on campus voting precinct to the Harrisonburg City Council, Leia served for two years as a student senator in the JMU Student Government Association, and they currently serve on the Honors Dean's Diversity Council. They enjoy podcasting for the Center are passionate about empowering students to be politically active, informed, and to have their voices heard. You can find them biking around Harrisonburg and on campus between spending time in Madison Center's Burruss Hall office or studying in the anthropology building. With the Madison Center, Leia is the creator and driving force behind the Dukes Vote Podcast and much of the center's graphics, logos, and designs.

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Mya Wilcox headshot
Mya Wilcox

Mya is a senior Public Policy and Administration major from Richmond, Virginia, with minors in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies and Spanish. Mya is excited to join the Madison Center after having the opportunity to serve as a Governor’s Fellow in the Office of the First Lady this summer, a transformative experience that taught her about the nature of public service and state government. Elsewhere on campus, she has worked with the Honors College as a Teaching Fellow and served in a variety of roles with JMU’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter. She is passionate about creating spaces for robust, productive conversation and community where individuals of all backgrounds can learn from one another and effect lasting change.

Parker Boggs Headshot
Parker Boggs

Parker is a senior Political Science and Public Policy and Administration double major, with a minor in Political Communications, with a pre-law track. At JMU, he is the chairman and founder of JMU’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), and has membership in College Republicans, Student Ambassadors, Phi Alpha Delta, and is a Senator for the College of Arts and Letters in the Student Government Association. Outside of JMU, he has worked on multiple campaigns around the Commonwealth of Virginia, including Marshall Orenic for Harrisonburg City Council, Scott Taylor for Congress, and Glenn Youngkin for Governor. He is passionate about youth engagement in the political spectrum and ensuring politicians meet with their youth constituents to hear about how the democratic process unfolds.

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Reagan Polarek

Reagan is a sophomore Communications and Political Science double major from Richmond, Virginia. At JMU, she is an active member of the Student Government Association, serving her second term as the 2026 class president. Additionally, she serves on the Legislative Affairs and Rules and Elections Committees.  Reagan is also an intern in the JMU Office of the President and the Title IX Office. She is involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Taylor Swift Society, and attends Alethia Church. Outside of JMU, Reagan has served in Governor Youngkin’s administration in the Communications office and on Siobhan Dunnavant's Campaign for Virginia Senate. She thinks that civic engagement is extremely important for college students, and is grateful for the opportunity to advocate for the JMU community. She is honored to be serving as a Democracy Fellow and hopes to do so until she graduates.

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Valeria Lopez-Postigo

Valeria is a senior majoring in Public Policy and Administration with a concentration in Public Policy while double minoring in Political Communication and Political Science. She is dedicated to public service having interned for Virginia State Delegate Marcus Simon and more recently, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. Valeria currently serves in the Student Government Association as Sergeant at Arms and as an Academic Senator for the College of Arts and Letters while also being one of the first undergraduate mentors to serve alongside graduate assistants in the Centennial Scholars Program. As a first-generation college student, she supports and advocates for the rising first-gen population at JMU as the Administrative Chair for the Madison First-Generation Society while having previously worked for the Reddix Center for First-Generation Students. Valeria advocates for reducing barriers to higher education and democratic participation while continuously sharing her passion for amplifying the voices of marginalized communities.

Sophie Rossi headshot
Sophie Rossi

Sophie Rossi is a senior Political Science major with a minor in Public Policy and Administration. At JMU, she has been a member of the Gamma Tau chapter of Delta Delta Delta since 2021 and has served on their philanthropy committee which focuses on raising money and spreading awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Last spring, she participated in the JMU Washington Semester Program, during which she interned for the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, DoD. Sophie enjoys studying global governance, international cooperation, and the democratic process globally. She is passionate about getting younger people involved with local and state elections and hopes to accomplish this during her time as a Democracy Fellow.

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