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Roosevelt’s United Nations Student Association Builds Upon Important Social Justice Initiatives

This blog post by La Vonne Downey, Associate Professor of Public Administration, was first published on Roosevelt University's Social Justice Blog.
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photo of professor LaVonne Downey

Roosevelt’s United Nations students are easy to identify. They have a global view that the actions of individuals, societies, global actors and nations’ behaviors affect the whole system. Their understanding of this interpersonal reliance equates to a responsibility to and for each other. They also bring an understanding of social justice which translates into a reciprocal obligation for everyone — no matter their age, race, gender, social class, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical abilities or sexual orientation — to have equal access to succeed in life.

This is all built upon the concept of human rights which are inherent and belong to all no matter where you were born or live.

As a group, the Roosevelt University United Nations Student Association engages its members on a range of global issues, such as international health, immunizations and malaria prevention, poverty, citizenship, development, and sustainability development goals, among many others.

They are also people who believe in engaging in action and activities to bring about change.

These are some highlighted accomplishments as an organization in the 2015-16 academic year.

  1. Set up and sponsored UN Shot@Life to train more than 140 champions at three area universities. Raised $2,000 for global immunization.
  2. Released books on Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals. Participated in, spoke and presented at Under One Sky, an event promoting the UN’s release of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) worldwide.
  3. Sponsored and trained Chicago Public School teachers to do Model UN. Helped 150 Chicago Public School Model UN students to write letters to our senators in support of the Global Nutrition bill, which we hand-delivered.
  4. Sponsored a UNICEF presentation and all UNA students joined in their UNICEF KID Power Band activity year-long fundraising event. So far, RU has raised enough for 150 food packets to send to those in need. Volunteered for UNICEF annual gala, which raised more than $1 million for UNICEF USA.
  5. Lobbied both Illinois senators and three representatives on 10 different occasions for Shot@Life, GAVI, Global Nutrition bill, and Electrify Africa bill. More than 170 Roosevelt students, faculty and staff make calls and wrote letters to senators to support the Education for All bill.

The success of these events is in part due to the way in which each of our students works to educate themselves about the issues while working toward advocacy. These provide students more experience at actual advocacy with legislators. For one six-month period, we were in each of our U.S senators’ offices once every three weeks doing advocacy work for full funding of immunizations, PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations), Global Fund and for the passage of bills. We were successful in getting the Electrify Africa and Global Nutrition Fund bills passed during this past year. Additionally, each activity helped bring in new students and partners who expanded our reach and impact. It also allowed for students to develop a wider array of skills and to understand the importance of local, national and international partnerships.

As faculty adviser for Roosevelt UN, it’s been a rewarding experience seeing my students become more engaged, compassionate and connected global citizens. La Vonne Downey Associate Professor of Public Administration 

Doing a wider array of events means there are more opportunities for students. This also allowed us as an organization to attract a wider and more diverse group of partners. That has translated into five students earning internships with the United Nations Chicago chapter and ONE.org. We have also been elected to and serve on the UNA board. Board membership is just one more way in which the students have been able to translate their interests and passions into actions and leadership on global issues.

As faculty adviser for Roosevelt UN, it’s been a rewarding experience seeing my students become more engaged, compassionate and connected global citizens. They’ve helped cement and be examples of what I have learned by being involved in the UN, creating an environment of belonging and acceptance. When people are given the change to improve the health and lives of others, even if they don’t know them directly, you get to see the best part of that person. It’s been a privilege to see my students be “better angels,” working in numerous ways for the good of all of us.

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When U.S. military veteran Ramuel Figueroa decided to enroll at Roosevelt University in 2014, his math and writing skills were rusty and his confidence was lacking. “I needed some help in brushing up,” the 24-year-old honors student said, who today is thriving on many fronts thanks to support and guidance he received at Roosevelt University.

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