As a statewide, student-directed and student-funded nonprofit organization, UConnPIRG plays a critical role on campus. For over 45 years, the student advocacy group has upheld a rich history of social change. Through their exemplary leadership, chapter chair Walter Dodson, state board chair Kharl Reynado, vice chair Emily O’Hara, treasurer Samuel Donahue and secretary Kyleigh Hillerud ensure UConnPIRG’s steady operation. Tonight’s (and each ensuing semester’s) UConnPIRG kickoff event should set a record high in attendance, for the organization offers not only countless volunteer and internship opportunities, but also a wide array of campaigns that aim to ameliorate local and campuswide communities.
Sophomore Parth Patel currently coordinates the “100% Renewable Energy” project. By establishing connections with UConn administrators and local senators, contributors to this project will attempt to convert UConn into a 100 percent renewable energy campus within the not-too-distant future.
Sophomores Erin McConnell and Deevena Annavarjula head the ‘Affordable Textbooks’ campaign. On March 21, student lobbying efforts led Congress to allocate $5 million from the fiscal 2018 budget towards open-educational resources’ creation and expansion. This victory will bolster the campaign’s efforts to enable open textbooks’ distribution across all large introductory courses, among other ventures.
Junior Abhishek Gupta runs the ‘Hunger and Homelessness’ campaign, which has been affiliated with several local soup kitchens and homeless shelters. This semester, campaign members aim to combat and propagate food stamp infrastructure locally and campuswide.
Sophomore Isabel Umland leads the ‘Zero Waste’ campaign, which contributed to Dunkin’ Donuts’ decision in early February to phase out polystyrene foam cups by 2020. By collaborating with dining services, waste removal services, and on-campus organizations, this campaign hopes to reduce material waste at UConn and educate students regarding this endeavor.
Junior Gabrielle LaTorre directs the ‘Save the Bees’ campaign. Its extensive pollinator-conducive practices designated UConn as a bee-friendly campus in 2017. The campaign intends to plant a bee-friendly garden near UConn’s South Dining Hall, eradicate neonicotinoids (i.e. bee-killing insecticides) and earn further accreditation for Mansfield, Connecticut, as a bee-friendly city.
Leading up to midterm elections on Nov. 6, O’Hara will organize the nonpartisan ‘New Voters Project’ (NVP). Dodson notes, “The last time we ran NVP in 2016, we registered 2,400 students to vote and increased voter turnout in Mansfield by 23 percent.” This semester, NVP’s members aspire to register 2,500 new student voters and provide a positive, unified voting environment for all UConn students. NVP operates during every major U.S. electoral cycle (i.e. every two years) and is bound to prove impactful yet again in 2018.
For any interested and available parties, tonight’s UConnPIRG kickoff event will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in ITE C80. All attendees and other incoming members are encouraged to visit UConnPIRG’s office (located in Student Union room 214), official website, Facebook page and Twitter page, as well as send feedback, questions and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. It only takes a small commitment today to ensure mass progression tomorrow.