The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network announced early this month that it has won the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Solutions to help fund its chapters across the country. Wheaton College’s Roosevelt chapter will receive some of these funds to encourage students to engage in policy making.
“Civic responsibility is something that should encompass everyone’s life,” said Sarah Estrela ’15, President of Roosevelt at Wheaton. “The Campus Network has worked to get college students involved in government issues, going beyond the vote and pressing for change in their communities.”
The MacArthur Foundation selected nine organizations across the globe that promote human rights as well as the bettering of the community by advancing global conversations.
“We are trying to be champions of human rights by making people understand that they have larger impact beyond just their immediate surroundings,” said Estrela. “A lot of that is driven through policy but we also hold talks. Last semester we brought activists from New York City and we held the Black Lives Matter March.”
With more money, the Roosevelt Institute hopes to become more engaged with the community by staging more events that promote civic responsibility. Roosevelt aims to recruit more students to become active members in policy regardless of their major.
“You don’t need a poli-sci major [to get involved with policy],” said Estrela. I’m an Art History major and I’ve become politically engaged through Roosevelt.”
“Because of the Network getting this money, we’ll be able to have more individualized attention from [national] headquarters,” she added. “That means that more people will come to the campus and give policy workshops.”
However, the money that the MacArthur Foundation is giving to the Campus Network is not only exciting due to the opportunities that come with it, but also because of the recognition the grant delivers.
“What it comes down to is that we have an entire network that’s recognized and legitimized by something as big as the MacArthur Foundation,” said Estrela. “Going forward we will be confident in that [the students’] voices will be heard on a larger scale and not just on Wheaton’s campus.”
Estrela believes that this money can not only benefit the Roosevelt Institute, but the entire Wheaton community as more students become politically active.
“It’s something for everybody,” Estrela said. “That’s what that funding translates to, so that more people can have access to these resources and will be empowered through that.”
Founded in 2004, the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network has worked to instill civic responsibility in college students across the country. Over 80 individual chapters have been established in that time. The Wheaton chapter has distinguished itself as one of the top five in the country through its longtime membership and extensive programming. Wheaton’s chapter has also gained prestige as several of its members have gone on to receive competitive national scholarships.
“I’m just really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time and I think Wheaton has had a large hand in shaping that,” Estrela said. “It’s nice to be recognized by external forces. Even though we are young and might not know every single thing that we need to know, we know enough that there needs to be change.”