March 7, 2014

Uncommon projects, new and old

The Uncommon Fund allocated almost $70,000 on Wednesday to 23 different projects and checked in with all previously funded projects to ascertain whether the projects came to fruition. Last year was the first year the Uncommon Fund imposed a one-year limit on its funds, according to third-year Maggie Schurr, chair of the Uncommon Fund board.

Some of this year’s winners with the largest amount of funding include $9,384 to UChicago Illuminoggin, a glowing, interactive brain sculpture; $8,900 to Suit Up!, which will provide suits to students to wear to job interviews; and $7,678 to UChicago Women’s Gala, which will celebrate women’s leadership at the University.

The Uncommon Fund, created in 2006 to fund “interesting and creative student projects and initiatives,” allocated $75,132 to 24 different projects in 2013. Of those projects, the majority have completed their projects, but some have requested extensions or returned their money.

Of last year’s winners, Interiors and Exteriors: Avant-Garde Itineraries in Postwar France, an exhibition with programming at the Smart Museum of Art; the International Snacks Vending Machine (formerly the Asian Snacks Vending Machine), which will provide international snacks in Reynolds Club; the Seminary Co-Op Documentary Project, which is producing a movie and book about the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore; and UChicaGrow, which is building a greenhouse at the Arts Incubator, applied for and received extensions, according to Uncommon Fund board member and third-year Matt Montequin.

Two of the projects, the International Snacks Vending Machine and UChicaGrow, faced setbacks because their advisers left the University, according to project managers and third-years Dake Kang and Leslie Glotzer, respectively.

“Involvement of the adviser in each project varies depending on the individual needs of each project and the needs of the student leading each project.  Some advisers are needed to simply help connect projects to campus resources, others are needed for specific event, financial, or organizational advising,” ORCSA student activities adviser Brandon Kurzweg said in an e-mail.

This year, the Uncommon Fund Board checked in on all of its existing projects, accepting applications for extensions of funds. Projects that did not occur at all must return their money to the Uncommon Fund. The money goes back to Student Government, where it is redistributed at Annual Allocations.

Many of last year’s projects were successful, including the Latin American Policy Event, which brought Latin American politicians to campus; Techno Contra Dance, which brought in a DJ for a techno contra dance and purchased supplies to hold multiple dances; and South Side in Focus, which will exhibit an artistic gallery of South Siders’ experiences at the Experimental Station next weekend.

Of last year’s projects, Financial Thinking, which planned to hold seminars on financial literacy, and Dinner in the White City, a proposed flash dining mob, both events-based projects, did not occur. Another project, Tea with a Ph.D., applied for an extension of funds but was denied because the board was unsure the project manager, a graduating fourth-year, could complete the project in time, according to Montequin.

Schurr said the board granted extensions to all projects the board judged could feasibly complete their project.

“Really, I think the Uncommon Board does as much as we care to, in order to ensure it’s as feasible as possible for the project managers to complete their projects, but once we allocate the money, it’s really up to them to allocate the money through ORCSA,” she said.