Last Saturday, the University of Chicago’s Uncommon Fund committee saw presentations on fifteen proposals that have made it to the final round of projects. This Friday, the committee will decide which of these proposals will receive a portion of the $40,000 grant. Fourth-year Connie Ma, who presented her project, “Fortune Favors,” emphasizes that “the Uncommon Fund was created to support projects and initiatives that without this money, wouldn’t really otherwise exist.” Ma seeks to involve the student body and the larger Hyde Park community in an effort to create witty fortune cookies, which will be distributed in student-run coffee shops, the admissions office, and neighborhood restaurants. “You don’t need to add ‘in bed’ to it to make it funny,” she promises.
Although it required much planning, Ma’s proposal is on the modest end of the spectrum. Third-year Michael Guido applied to the Uncommon Fund to finance a documentary film and photography project in Haiti. The cinematographic component, led by third-year Justin Staple, will record the group’s interactions with the recovering nation as they aid in rebuilding communities and reestablishing trade by purchasing handmade goods. Back in the United States, the sale of these products will be used to raise additional funds to support Haiti.
Other projects, such as fourth-year Ashley Angulo’s “Uncommon Garden,” focus their efforts locally. Angulo would like to install planters in four residence halls. A new position on house council would oversee the garden’s cultivation, and students in the house could earn points for taking care of it; these points would later be exchanged for a share in the produce. “Ideally,” she says, “students will be using their herbs and vegetables in their cooking, and using them for study breaks, contributing to sustainability efforts on campus.” A related project organized by Julie Huang and Claire Feinberg will expand campus composting to student-run coffee shops. “The ultimate goal of this project,” Feinberg states in her proposal, “is to eventually use the compost ourselves in gardens in the community.”
Other projects include a free, public printmaking shop at the Woodlawn Collaborative: the “64th Street Print Shop,” proposed by second-year Clare Fentress, would offer classes as well as the option of ordering prints for T-shirts, posters, or invitations. Fourth-year Eliza Rose and third-year Claire Rabkin would like additional funds to produce a play based on “The Disappearance of HonorÃ© Subrac,” by Guillaume Apollinaire. Third-year Rob McConeghy and second-year Erica Ting are trying to relieve some A-Level stress by supplying massage chairs and board games to the popular study location in the Regenstein Library. While the projects are diverse in scope and scale, through humor, aid, sustainability, or arts and culture, they propose an “uncommon” approach to improving our world.