First ever UN group arrives on campus after rocky beginning

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Photo Credit: Amman Waseem | Daily Texan Staff

The first ever chapter of the United Nations student group, GenUN, will comes to UT this semester, months after a failed attempt to launch this January.  

GenUN is a national initiative of the United Nations Association of the United States of America to get students involved with global politics and issues. Universities participate in promoting key U.N. messages related to energy, peace and security and global health, among others.  

Psychology senior Amman Waseem, president of the UT chapter of GenUN, said the organization will give members the chance to discuss major issues and do community service in Austin. 

“Not only are we trying to serve the 17 U.N. sustainable development issues … but we’re really trying to give students a community of people who want to be internationally minded and who want to develop their own global thinking skills,” Waseem said.

The UT chapter was first attempted last semester by a different group of officers, Waseem said. Waseem was secretary for the organization at the time and took over the initiative after several meetings with little to no progress made. 

“Coming from the inside, I just saw that no one really did any work; there was no directive,” Waseem said. “Most of the officers just showed up for a resume booster and then left, which was extremely disheartening for me.”

Waseem and Nitya Chivukula, vice president of GenUT, worked throughout the summer to establish the base work for the organization to launch this fall. 

Chivukula, a finance and economics junior, said she used to be a part of other service organizations but felt that UT needed one that worked directly with the community.  

“I wasn’t the type of person who just wanted to raise money and donate it to an organization where you couldn’t see the effects, and that’s what I saw a majority of these organizations doing,” Chivukula said. “I wanted to be inclusive of many things, and I wanted to physically do something.”

Chivukula is currently working on planning the chapter’s main service project for the semester, which involves adding sustainable improvements such as compost bins to Posada Esperanza, an Austin refugee center, as well as directly helping the residents there.

Biology senior Britney Dau is the internal director for GenUN and said she hopes the organization expands from its roughly 45 members so more can be involved in global issues. 

“I do believe that every single person has a unique background that can contribute to GenUN,” Dau said. “I see the potential in this organization. I want it to grow.”

Aside from biweekly  meetings and events, the organization will host a variety of guest speakers. One of these first speakers will be Michelle Morse, senior advisor to the United Nations Foundation and acting vice president for its Girls and Women Strategy. 

Waseem said open-mindedness and diversity in backgrounds were priorities in selecting the roughly 45 members involved.

“Our club basically only requires that you at least try to seek another perspective,” Waseem said. “People are literally just coming from all walks of UT just to try to learn from each other, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.”