Yan Zhao cant vote in the Nov. 4 presidential election, but thats not stopping her from encouraging those who can to visit the polls.

Zhao, from China, is among about 16 West Virginia University students participating in a get-out-the-vote poster contest on campus. The multimedia project is part of Engage 08 , a campaign by Student Government Association and the Center for Civic Engagement to get young people involved in the political process.

The posters are on display in the Mountainlair commons and can also be viewed online at http://engage08.wvu.edu/Posters . Members of the public have until Friday, Oct. 31, to pick their favorite poster by texting their vote to 41411.

More than 300 votes had been cast as of Tuesday morning (Oct. 28).

Using text messaging and other new media is an innovative way of engaging young voters in this historic presidential election, SGA President Jason Parsons said.

The students who created the posters are in WVU professor Eve Faulkes graphic design class.

We hope the posters stress the idea that turning out at the polls is the critical step in making their voice heard, Faulkes said.This election is the most important in history for them in that their age group has the potential to turn the election one way or the other. Thats a lot of power and responsibility.

As an international student, Zhao, 30, has a unique perspective on the election: Hailing from a country where citizens do not have a lot of experience with elections, she is witnessing her first presidential campaign since coming to the United States two years ago.

This is a very new thing for me,said Zhao, who was born in Inner Mongolia in northern China.I am very excited to be involved in this project. Im the only student in my class who is not a citizen. Even though I cant vote, I can still encourage other people to use their voice.

Zhao has created two posters for the contest.

One adopts a pirate theme and shows the bare back of a pirate with a tattoo of an American flag in the shape of the United States. The pirate has a hook, and there is a treasure map that saysAmerica Vote 2008andNow that youve registered, go for the goldat the polls.

I compare the presidency to the captain of pirates,she said.I add some humor to try to draw peoples attention.

Zhaos other entry features two columns of red and blue squares representing Republican and Democratic voters, with one square missing from each color. The text saysyou CAN vote To use your new voice Decide.

This poster is to encourage immigrants who are now naturalized citizens to go to the polls, she said.

Zhao plans to pursue a masters degree in graphic arts at WVU , but first she has to complete her current graduate studies in educational leadership.

She already has a doctorate in Chinese art history from Southeast University in China and a bachelors degree in art education and masters degree in oil painting from Inner Mongolia Normal University.

She would either like to work for a large design company or teach art or design in college upon completing her studies.

Zhao said she is glad she came to the United States and enrolled at WVU .

WVU has students from different countries so I can know different cultures,she said.The academic programs are also good, and there is opportunity for students to choose different classes they are interested in taking.

After I got my Ph.D., I could have stayed in China and taught in college,Zhao added.I think I made the right choice to come to America because I opened a window that lets me know more about the world. My life has more potential.

Engage 08: Your vote. Your voice.

Engage 08, WVU s student-driven initiative to get young people engaged in the political process, involves a series of activities, Web site ( http://engage08.wvu.edu/ ) and blog.

Upcoming events include:

  • a town hall debatesponsored by The Daily Athenaeumfrom 7-9 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Mountainlair ballrooms
  • showings of the political moviesRecountat 7 p.m. Oct. 31, 9:30 p.m. Nov. 1 and 7 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Mountainlair Gluck Theatre;Swing Voteat 9:30 p.m. Oct. 31, 7 p.m. Nov. 1 and 9:30 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Gluck Theatre ($3 for WVU students, faculty and staff and $5 for the general public; the Mountainlair Box Office opens one hour before showtime)
  • an election watch party at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Mountainlair food court.; watch returns on TV.