NU chapter of Roosevelt Institution starts the year off right

Emilia Barrosse

During its inaugural year, the newly founded Northwestern chapter of the Roosevelt Institution was nominated as one of the three best new chapters nationally, created a sustainability grant with Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, and started several volunteer projects throughout the Chicago-Evanston area.Created three years ago by students at Yale and Stanford universities, the Roosevelt Institution is a nonprofit, progressive network of college campus-based think tanks. Members at participating schools research and write policy on a variety of public issues.Weinberg senior Matt Fischler said he was inspired to start the group while attending a conference on criminal justice hosted by the University of Chicago’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institution. Fischler and two friends who also attended the conference co-founded the student group last January. The NU chapter now has more than 40 members. “In the first few months there was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm,” Fischler said. “We felt like we could change the world. It’s so easy to get trapped in the campus bubble at NU. We all have a legitimate voice and can learn a lot from our neighbors about solutions.” The student group has already attracted some new members.Nolan Feeney, a Medill freshman, said he has attended two group meetings and is interested in honing his media skills through the Institution.”I’m really excited about blogging,” Feeney said. “I’m a Medill student, so I’m interested in any journalism I can get my hands on.”The Center on Poverty and Economic Opportunity, a division within the Roosevelt Institution, teaches members skills for writing and researching policy. It also focuses on the use of blogs and other social media to spread information. “We try to provide an environment for people to learn about policy-making,” said Ben Sanders, a SESP senior and co-director of the Center on Poverty and Economic Opportunity. “It brings a learning opportunity and gives us a chance to do what we want to do. You can really see results.”Additionally, the Institution includes the Center for Energy and Environment. NU chapter members said they are working on creating a Center for Education Policy.The Institution’s activities have evolved with its growing membership and presence on campus, Fischler said. Group activities emphasize the importance of student engagement with the surrounding community and offer opportunities to volunteer.”We’ve created a mentorship program where we work with 24 public high school students and pair them with a young professional and a Roosevelt Institution member,” Fischler said. “We will also be hosting an Illinois town hall meeting on youth issues in early November.”The program will start interviewing students interested in becoming mentors in mid-October, and the program will officially begin in January, Fischler said.In August, the NU chapter was nominated as one of the three best new chapters in the country by Monika Johnson, the group’s regional coordinator. “That was such an honor because there are so many new chapters,” Fischler said. “That really spoke to our bigger successes.”At last November’s regional conference on environmentalism’s interaction with the Midwestern economy, hosted by the NU Roosevelt Institution, the group introduced its plan to create the NU Sustainability Fund with SEED. The Fund, which currently has $1500, launched this fall with money from fundraisers and the senior class fund. “It’s a perpetual motion machine with money,” Fischler said. “We give grants to students and faculty members who green up their offices and lives, and the money saved goes back into the fund.”Feeney said he joined the Institution because students seem to love being a part of it. “I don’t think of it as a volunteer thing, I’m just really looking forward to getting involved,” he said. “It really teaches you things that you won’t find outside the classroom.”[email protected]