RIG Reexamines Impact
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 23:11
Of the 13 initiatives that have won ReImagine Georgetown grants in the last five years, eight are still thriving. But funding for some inactive projects have been cut for the first time, and organizers are searching for ways to increase the program’s impact.
RIG, an annual contest that awards grants to student-run initiatives, traces its origins to 2007, when the university approached Students of Georgetown, Inc., the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union and THE HOYA to start a program that would fund undergraduate student life improvements. The credit union and The Corp grant approximately $10,000 each year to fund RIG winners’ proposals, while The Hoya provides marketing and advertising.
“RIG is, for us, a way to pool our resources and get behind projects that are bigger — bigger financially, bigger in scope and we hope bigger in impact,” said Ryan Muldoon (COL ’13), chair of The Corp Philanthropy Committee and a RIG board member.
The Georgetown University Farmer’s Market, Illuminate Lauinger, Breaking the Bubble and Student Workshops at Georgetown were all established with the help of RIG grants and remain active on campus. RIG grant recipients whose projects are unsuccessful, however, risk having their funding cut — an option the RIG board exercised for the first time this year, according to GUASFCU and RIG treasurer Justin Kwan (MSB ’13).
The five accounts that RIG closed this semester — the Beautify Georgetown Project, Student Working Groups, Sustainable Garden Initiative, Saxa Service Feast and Georgetown Alternative Music Series — had been inactive for more than a year and were led by students who have since graduated without handing over access to RIG funds to their successors.
“I think that, as a whole, ReImagine Georgetown hasn’t really reached its full potential,” Kwan said. “In the past five years we’ve given out roughly $50,000 in funding, and you have great byproducts such as the Farmers’ Market and SWAG, [but] if you take a step back and look at what $50,000 means … a lot more can be done.”
Kwan said that RIG could be improved by changing the application and ensuring that there is more communication between the organization and grant winners, such as implementing a more consistent check-in process.
Still, several of RIG’s success stories have left a noticeable mark on student life.
Jack Carlson (SFS ’09) and Eric Wind (SFS ’09) received the first-ever RIG grant, which totaled $2,000, in 2007 to start the Beautify Georgetown Project, which restored works of art and architectural details in buildings around campus.
“We used the fact that we got the grant as a mandate to go speak to administrators,” Wind said. “I don’t think we would have been able to be as successful in terms of getting the administrators to pay … if we didn’t have the ReImagine Georgetown grant.”
One of the major initiatives Wind and Carlson took on was restoring the display of shields in Copley Formal Lounge, which had been falling apart. Wind estimated that the project would have cost $20,000, but the duo found an artisan who donated his time to recast the shields, reducing the cost to $2,500.
Because the group needed university approval to fix the shields, Wind and Carlson were in contact with the administration and O’Donnell eventually offered to pay.
“I think our grant was extremely successful, and the things we did should last at least a century, so we believe that future generations of Georgetown students will benefit from our work,” Wind said.
The Beautify Georgetown project only used $600 of its RIG funds in projects in Sellinger Lounge, the admissions office and other locations but did not pass on access to the funds to anyone after Wind and Carlson graduated.
The account became inactive, and RIG is now taking money from the Beautify Georgetown Project and the other inactive initiatives to fund other grants.
The Farmer’s Market, founded in Spring 2011 on a RIG grant awarded to Bre Donald (NHS ’12) and Melissa Gadsden (NHS ’12), has been a popular mainstay of Copley Lawn all semester thanks to Executive Market Director Alexa Cotcamp (MSB ’15), who took over when Donald and Gadsden graduated.
“I think the Farmer’s Market is one of the most unique things I’ve ever encountered,” Cotcamp said. “I think it really reimagines Georgetown in the chance that it gives students to really come together once every week for the simple purpose of really good, really local, awesome food.”
Melissa Riggio (COL ’14), an employee at Lauinger Library, received $1,000 from RIG last November for Illuminate Lauinger, a project that aims to revamp the interior design of the oft-criticized library. Last month, Illuminate Lauinger put up four art pieces near the writing center on the second floor of the building.
“The goal of Illuminate Lauinger was to bring more art to Lauinger and make it a place that students don’t hate going to,” Riggio said. “There’s a general joke that people don’t like Lau or despise Lau. As someone that spends a good part of the week there, I wanted to make it a place that people wouldn’t mind going to or would like going to just because of the atmosphere change.”
Student Workshops at Georgetown received $2,000 last November to provide opportunities for students and clubs to organize education workshops on topics of their choice. Past workshops have included henna, sushi making, dance and knitting.
SWAG sponsored 10 events last semester — nearly one each week — but aims to cut back on that total this year in an effort to enhance the quality and size of each workshop, according to SWAG founder Christina Cristomo (SFS ’13).
“For the students who lead the workshops, it’s a good way for them to share what they’re passionate about with the Georgetown community as well as have some experience teaching a class, which is something I think a lot of students are interested in doing but didn’t necessarily have the platform to do prior to SWAG’s existence,” Cristomo said. “For people who attend the workshops, the obvious benefit is that … it’s just a cool way to learn something new in a low-pressure environment.”