ReImagining GU, One Grant at a Time

Though the majority of projects sponsored by the annual ReImagine Georgetown grant have cemented themselves in student life, the grant is only the first step to becoming a campus fixture.

The grant was an initiative formed in 2003 as a collaborative effort among The Corp, the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union and The Hoya as a way to reshape the undergraduate experience. Since then, representatives from the organizations have convened once a year to provide the seed money that will help innovative students get their projects off the ground.

“With the ReImagine Georgetown grant, we are really looking for ideas that are sustainable, and ideas that will really help to improve what it’s like to be a Georgetown student,” Ariana Klener (MSB ’12) said, one of the GUASFCU representatives on the committee.

 

A PUSH FORWARD

The application, which was due Friday, asks participants to reflect on the way their proposal can affect the student experience on the Hilltop and evaluate the feasibility of their plans, according to Carolina Delgado (SFS ’12), a Corp representative on the grant selection committee.

The committee that selects the annual recipients is composed of six members — two representatives each from The Corp, The Hoya and GUASFCU. The prize money offered to the winners can range anywhere from $500 to $10,000.

In its first few years, the competition struggled to gain applicants. In academic year 2007, it failed to award any grants.

Yet as it has grown, the program has established itself as a competitive fixture in the fall-funding landscape.

Grant recipients have included programming series, new institutions and one-time events, such as SaxaService Feast, an eating competition for charity held in spring 2009, and Address: Unknown, a performance project about D.C.’s homeless that combined a show in April 2009 by Nomadic Theater with community service.

According to Klener, the prize money is intended to help a group begin to implement its project, but is not meant to sustain them continuously, a reality mirrored by the limited success of some of the funded projects.

Most winners have used the grant to establish themselves until they were eligible to apply to be a Student Activities Commission-sponsored student organization. The RIG committee also sets benchmark dates for money distribution in order to prevent groups from misusing the funds or spending them too quickly, according to Delgado.

The Georgetown Alternative Music Series, which won $5,000 in 2009, planned to sponsor on-campus concerts, particularly by undergraduate and local artists. However, GAMS’s first and only concert was in November 2010, featuring emcee, producer, singer and songwriter Kokayki, DJ Beach and D.C. student bands Rising Suns and Sea Dog.

Nonetheless, the temporary success of GAMS does not reflect the overall path of RIG grant winners, many of which have become well-known institutions.

 

HARNESSING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

A major theme for past winners of the RIG grant has been increasing opportunities to engage with communities both inside and outside the gates.

The 2009 winner DC Students Speak has become a political presence in the past year by mobilizing student engagement with the D.C. government and the Georgetown neighborhood, as well as connecting Georgetown to other universities in the District.

Another 2009 winner, DiversAbility, is a recognized SAC organization that focuses on stimulating conversation about disabilities.

“We aren’t an advocacy group,” Jeffrey Kosmo (MSB ’12), president of DiversAbility, said. “We are more about talking about issues and getting the discussion started. The point is to get people on campus to think about what it means to have a disability and to think about it in a different way.”

The group works to foster dialogue through holding movie screenings and conducting monthly flyer campaigns that focus on specific issues such as autism and obsessive compulsive disorder. Events like Ability to Express, where participants come together to share what having a disability means to them, aim to provide students with an outlet for expression.

Breaking the Bubble, a 2010 winner, has had tremendous success this semester, according to its founders Sammy Magnuson (COL ’12) and Kitt Wolfenden (SFS ’12), a former columnist for THE HOYA. The project aims to get students off campus so they can experience the District outside the confines of Georgetown.

The pair applied for the grant after they missed the deadline for applications for SAC funding.

“Reimagine Georgetown really made this possible for us because it provided us with an outlet other than [the Student Activities Commission] to go through.” Wolfenden said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

So far this semester, Breaking the Bubble has put together a guide to D.C. and led five trips, including a tour of classic destinations on U Street. Wolfenden and Magnuson have also planned excursions exploring soul food, music and photography in the District for November and December.

The pair has been dispersing their winnings throughout the fall semester and the coming spring, so they may continue holding events until the group becomes SAC-recognized.

HOMEGROWN FAVORITES

ReImagine Georgetown grants have also gone to organizations that hope to make the campus more environmentally friendly.

The Georgetown University Sustainable Garden Initiative, which won a grant in 2008 and was also recently recognized as a SAC organization, established a community garden behind Kehoe Field that allows students, faculty and staff to grow their own plants and food. The garden is maintained by two coordinators and five volunteers, who are given full control over their plot and the crop it yields. This year, a resident assistant signed her whole freshman floor up for a plot, according to CoordinatorMaddie Howard (COL ’12).

“The plots switch hands every year as well as over the summer, so that different people are planting all the time,” she wrote in an email. “The garden itself is really just the land. The coordinators are just there to help people use it.”

The garden’s coordinators were pleased with the money they originally received, which sustained the group for a full year before it became sponsored by SAC, according to Howard.

This year, more dirt and raised beds will be added to the garden in order to allow more people to participate in the project, Howard said.

Another RIG recipient, the Georgetown University Farmer’s Market, originally began as a class project by co-founders Melissa Gadsden (NHS ’12) and Bre Donald (NHS ’12) although the white tents on Healy Lawn quickly became a campus staple this fall.

Because of the success of the pilot run conducted in the spring, Gadsden and Donald decided to pursue their initiative fully this semester. A combination of the ReImagine Georgetown grant money and funds from the Georgetown University Student Association allowed the Farmer’s Market to set up camp every Wednesday for six weeks, providing students with access to fresh produce, local vendors and food trucks from the D.C. area.

The market is currently on seasonal hiatus until it starts up again in late spring, although Gadsden said that possible holiday-themed markets for Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day are in the works. According to Gadsden, leaders hope the market will continue for years to come.

“We really want to use the farmer’s market as a meeting place for students, a place where students can advertise and communicate. We really want every student to be a part of it,” Gadsden said.

For all of the projects funded by the ReImagine Georgetown grants, the biggest obstacle has been determining how to get started.

“ReImagine Georgetown really makes ideas more possible. It provides for a smoother transition. For us, when we came up with our idea, a lot of student groups embraced us and a lot of administrators helped us out. It really is easy to make it happen once you approach the right people,” Gadsden said.

Correction: This article originally states that Breaking the Bubble has led one trip this semester. The group has, in fact, run five excursions. The article has been updated to reflect this change.

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