February 19, 2015

Uncommon Fund announces this year’s 22 finalist projects

The Uncommon Fund released a list of the 22 finalists for the yearly competition on February 16. The competition, which grants $85,000 across several disparate student-led projects, is designed to promote creative student work across the University. The contenders’ project ideas range widely, from hosting a “National Symposium on Hanging Out” to filming on-campus comedy sketches.

Third-year Maya Handa proposes to add a “Young Adult Fiction” section to the library. “When I first came to college, I was really excited because we have this huge library system and I was really excited to check out all my favorite books,” she said. “But then I found out that the Reg has very few pleasure reading books...and those that they do have are very far apart, so you have to know what you’re looking for [and can’t browse].”

Her proposal would add a section in the library devoted chiefly to students’ favorite books from growing up, which would be available on the third floor of the Reg.

“I think this is something that could benefit the school for a long time,” Handa added.

Second-year Kevin Zen proposes to start a Bubble Soccer group on campus. “When I think about UChicago there’s that quirkiness factor [that you can also see in Bubble Soccer]....You get to wear this [inflatable] bubble while playing soccer.”

This is the second year that Bubble Soccer has applied for the Uncommon Fund. The proposal was a finalist last year, but did not advance due to administrative and liability concerns. “This year we are trying again and clearing that up. Last year [our proposal] was pretty popular, so I think this year we will come up with a compromise that will allow us to [see the project through],” Zen said.

Another project, “Through My Asian American Eyes,” seeks funding to broaden discussions on the Asian American experience. With the funding, third-year Vo Ram Yoon and second-years Raymond Fang and William Rhee wish to create a photography campaign and a teach-in to consider problems often unaddressed for Asian Americans.

“[The teach-in] is a one day event, but the outreach is something we conduct over several weeks. One component is a political campaign, where we take pictures of Asian Americans and they say what their experiences were like growing up—especially in areas where there are not many Asians,” Yoon said.

“Part of the teach-in would include workshops and discussions led by other students. Some of the topics that they will address would be internalized racism, which is especially common in [Asian-American] communities [and] the intersection between queer and Asian identity,” Yoon continued.

Students are able to vote on their favorite proposals online, and each one includes both a video and a paragraph detailing the project idea.

Some of the other proposals include adding a charger station on campus, a UChicago Marketplace app, a solar-powered charging picnic table, a pig roast on the Quad, and the refurbishment of pool tables at the student-run Hallowed Grounds café.

Alec Goodwin, who proposed the “National Symposium on Hanging Out,” and Raymond Fang are Maroon editors.