Chapter Spotlight: Cornell University

By: Rabita Tareque, GenUN Fellow for the Northeast and Sabrina Rivers, UNA-USA Cornell Chapter President

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Please give us a brief history of your chapter and how did you get involved with UNA-USA.

Cornell University’s chapter of UNA was only founded in 2015, so we’re still relatively new organization on campus and focused on growing in terms of campus footprint. We’re now entering our fourth term of activity, and we’ve already focused on the roles that UN Peacekeepers play in the world, as well as refugee rights.

How is your chapter organized?

We have a small Executive Board comprised of the President, the Director of Public Relations, the Director of Research, the Treasurer, and the Executive Secretary. We also have several chairs—Design, Research, and Events. Finally, we have the General Body, which is divided into a variety of committees that help to execute and plan events for the club. This way all the members of our chapter can be involved in research and events planning.

How large is your membership and how did you recruit them?

Our membership is comprised of about 30 members who regularly attend our general body meetings and help organize events. We largely recruit through our university’s ClubFest and through word of mouth. In particular, we emphasize research and education on specific issues every semester, which keeps people invested and excited to return to our general body meetings.

From all the events & activities your chapter hosted last year, which one are you most proud of?

We are very proud of our Human Rights Day event. We gathered a panel of speakers from different background to talk about how their work relates to human rights. We had a graduate student talk about workers’ rights, and a representative from Ithaca Welcomes Refugees. Admission was free and everyone enjoyed listening to the speeches and eating Thai food.

What issues are your members focused on and why?

Each semester, we vote on a new theme to focus on for the upcoming months; usually they’re related to global current events in order to attract the interest of new members and appeal to the campus at large. Prior semesters, we’ve focused on Peacekeeping and Refugees; we recently voted to spend the fall working more generally on Peace and Security issues!

What makes your chapter unique?

What I find most unique about our chapter is that our executive board is composed largely of students who have been with UNA USA Cornell from the beginning. Most of us were there when we decided to start the club, when we created the constitution and signed documents, and now we all get to be here to witness the club in full swing. We all feel so strongly about this organization because we’ve seen it though its many phases and are personally invested in helping the organization grow. We couldn't be prouder of our chapter success on campus!

Are there any upcoming events your chapter is holding that you're excited about?

This semester, we’re most excited about the celebration of two events: International Day of Peace in September and UN Day in October. For the UN’s birthday last year, we created a massive cake out of cardboard and then served slices of cake to the Cornell community and that was a huge success. We coupled that with a photo campaign, asking students why they support refugee rights. It’s always interesting to see such a wide array of answers whenever we ask students to respond to a question like that. Hopefully, the event we’re planning for this year’s UN Day will be just as well-received!

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