The University of Rhode Island Student Organization Thrive will be hosting their second-annual event called “ChangeFest” in the Memorial Union Ballroom on Feb. 25. ChangeFest gives students a unique opportunity to generate creative solutions to issues specific to college campuses.
The first ChangeFest event was held at the Brown University campus last year on March 23. The original purpose of the first event was to bring college students from all around Rhode Island together so they can collaborate to generate new ideas as answers for problems in society relating to topics like freedom of speech, recycling, cost of higher education, social media and more. This year some of those details have changed.
The event’s themes will be more narrowly focused on campus related issues, according to Thrive President Elana Rivkin. The topics are physical health, mental health, diversity and inclusion, services and resources, campus involvement, sustainability and education.
During the 10-hour event, students can expect to form groups of three to five students from URI and between five and six other universities, said Steven Leone, the vice president of Thrive.
“I love seeing students from different universities working together and finding commonalities,” Leone said. “It’s interesting to see how well differing viewpoints can come together.”
The groups chose a topic or an issue they are passionate about, and try to find solutions for the problem. Later, they’ll pitch their idea to an audience of fellow college students, Thrive club members and the guest speakers.
Students have a chance to turn these ideas into active solutions as they get the chance to compete for funding to kickstart their project. Those who come in first place receive a $500 cash prize, second place $300, and third place $200, Rivkin said.
“It’s an opportunity for students to try to pinpoint problems, come up with solutions, and work hard to implement and maintain those solutions,” Leone said. “It’s a chance to unlock the potential we all have to make positive change in our immediate environments. It’s a chance to show our creative and innovative potentials.”
Special guest speakers have also been confirmed for the event. Those speakers will include University of Rhode Island President David Dooley, the URI Chief Diversity Officer Naomi Thompson, and co-founder and Executive Director of Etsy, Matthew Stinchcomb, Rivkin said.
Thrive hopes the event will go over as successfully as it did last year. Former student participants are also hopeful for this years contest.
“I never thought we would have been able to do as much as we did in what seemed like such a short span of time,” said Brian Bianchi, a junior nursing student who attended the event. “Changefest was [an] eye opening experience for me because we came up with a concept for a website and started building it in less than one day. The event showed me what we are capable of as people and how much we can change in so little time. All we need to do is work together.”
The event is free and open to all students, and runs from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Memorial Union. If you are interested in attending the event, go to changefesturi.splashthat.com to register.