A chapter spotlight interview with Renata Alvarenga from UNA - Seton Hall University, one of the top two chapters from March Membership Madness!
1. Please give us a brief history of your chapter and your history with your chapter.
The United Nations Association at Seton Hall University was founded in 2014 by Gabriela Taveras. Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations already had an extensive partnership with UNA-USA, but the student chapter is relatively new.
I got involved with UNA-SHU a month into my freshman year as the Under-Secretary General of Programming (Event Coordinator). For a year and a half, I was responsible for creating, organizing, and booking various events at our campus. During this time, I represented UNA-SHU at events such as the Social Good Summit, which I was selected for as a UNA Blogger Fellow. In the Spring of 2017, I was elected as President of the chapter, and I am now leading all the efforts by the Seton Hall chapter with the help of our amazing members.
2. How is your chapter organized and why?
We currently have 6 Executive Board positions: president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, social media chair, and event coordinator. After electing new students for this position every year, the president assign different roles and responsibilities for each one of the E-Board members. We then hold general meetings for all of our members every other week to tell students about new initiatives by UNA-USA, upcoming chapter events, and highlights from previous activities we have done.
We believe it is better to have a centralized team that can organize all of our initiatives and then advertise them to the entire student body at Seton Hall University, as it selects the students that are most passionate about the UNA-USA’s work and allows other students to choose which activities to get involved with at their own pace.
3. How large is your membership and how did you recruit them?
Besides our leadership team of 6, we have a membership of over 180 students, who are the first ones to know about our updates through our email list. Our biggest recruitment phases are the Fall and Spring Involvement Fairs that are held by Seton Hall, where we usually have a UNA-SHU table with lots of GenUN swag and an Excel file for students to sign up and get our regular emails. We also have a powerful outreach on social media, and we often use our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to recruit more members to our chapter.
4. What events has your chapter planned this year?
For the 2016-2017 academic year, UNA-SHU has worked hard to continue its excellence from the 2015-2016 year, when we won the UNA-USA Campus Chapter Excellence Award.
In the Fall, our biggest highlight was the Adopt-A-Future Fundraiser Dinner, where we fundraised over $500 for two local organizations in New Jersey that help refugee children to get an education, and we also gave them the school backpacks that we got from the UN Foundation’s Adopt-A-Future Campaign.
In the Spring, we rented a bus and took over 40 students to UNA Members’ Day at the UN Headquarters. We tabled for different UNA-USA campaigns, such as the International Day of Happiness and the Thank a Peacekeeper Campaign. We were recently awarded a stipend by the Better World Fund to support our participation at the Peacekeeper Campaign, and we used part of the money to get UN swag from the actual United Nations Gift Shop and raffle prizes for those who wrote on the Blue Helmet Cards! We also celebrated International Women’s Day with our campus event “Persistence Is Power”, a panel discussion that included wonderful speakers such as Orobosa Owie, director of the African Affairs Committee with the United Nations Association-SNY Division for Young Professionals, and Donna Rosa, president of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of UNA-USA.
5. What issues are your members focused on and why?
We try to work on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals when planning events and activities on campus, and we held a Sustainable Development Goals Teach-In in 2015, raising awareness to all the different issues illustrated in the Global Goals. This past year, however, UNA-SHU has focused on Gender Equality, Climate Action, and the refugee issue.
6. What makes your chapter unique?
UNA-SHU is unique because there is a lot of passion and support to the national office and the work that the UN Foundation does. The School of Diplomacy and International Relations at our school is always establishing different partnerships with UNA-USA, and as the student chapter, we can take advantage of that, as well as attend many events at the UN Headquarters, considering our strategic location in New Jersey. We also have good relations with our representatives, which helps in the advocacy process. We recently had a meeting with Senator Bob Menendez’ Office, and we are planning a meeting with Senator Cory Booker’s Office for this month.
7. What was your favorite part about Membership Madness?
March Membership Madness was a great contest because it allowed us to boost our social media content even more. We fortunately had many initiatives planned for the month of March, so the Membership Madness gave us an opportunity to show the UNA-USA community all of our efforts and achievements online! We definitely got a lot of recognition for our active role on social media, but it was also great learning more about other UNA chapters in the United States and following each other to stay up to date to their initiatives on their campuses, getting inspired by their work!
8. Are there any upcoming GenUN events your chapter is holding that you're excited about?
Yes! In late April, we have the last event of the year, to celebrate Earth Day. It is called the UNA Climate Forum, and it will consist of 3 hours of discussion and activities on climate change. We will have Mexican food for lunch, professors presenting the issue of global climate change and an outside speaker from a Republican point of view giving his take on the topic and broadening the discussion to all political parties and interests; after all, climate change is a global issue. We will also have some time for advocacy so students can write letters to their elected representatives about environmental issues, donate to plant trees anywhere in the world, and many other activities to get everyone involved! The link to RSVP can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/una-climate-forum-tickets-33471851208
I am particularly excited about this event because I have been engaged in climate action for years as an advocate at my home country, Brazil, and at international conferences such as COP21, which I took part as a representative of the Brazilian youth, and the Crows & Climate Conference at MIT.