Improve UT Challenge offers funding, resources for student improvement projects

Sara Schleede

Surrounded by more than 50,000 students, over 1,000 student organizations and three legislative student groups, students may feel overwhelmed when trying to make their voices heard on campus. Student Government attempts to give students the ability to enact change with the Improve UT Challenge.

SG hosted a workshop Monday night to help students develop ideas for the Improve UT Challenge, an annual competition that gives students resources and funding for campus improvement projects. 

“When it started, it was literally just an idea,” said Vivianne Tu, SG administrative director and management senior. “We didn’t have any resources, but we thought this was an imperative thing to have on campus to make sure that all students can have their needs addressed.” 

SG partnered with the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs in fall 2016 to create the Improve UT Challenge. Each year, the winning team receives $10,000 to implement their idea.

Last year, electrical engineering sophomores Henry Davis, Nathaniel Love and Jeffrey Marshall won the competition with an idea to streamline information about tutoring and office hours onto a single, easily accessible website. 

Marshall said his team is still working on implementing their idea, and staying motivated throughout the process can be the hardest part. 

“You have to be very upfront and forward-thinking about your project,” Marshall said. “Even if you come in first or second or third, you should try to get your idea implemented because you think it’s going to help UT. But you do have to push.” 

Biology freshman Brian Feng attended the workshop with an idea to improve the recycling process on campus. Feng said he wants more signs explaining what is recyclable and what isn’t as well as separate bins for aluminum, paper and plastic.

“I’m from Taiwan, and Taiwan is one of the countries doing the best jobs in terms of recycling,” Feng said. “When I got here, I was really shocked. UT is a top institution, but with certain things like this, it’s still pretty behind.” 

Student body president Colton Becker said the Improve UT Challenge is one of the best programs he has seen SG host in his time at the University.

“It serves as a very important and valuable form of student empowerment on campus,” nutrition senior Becker said. “UT has a long history of student advocacy. A lot of the changes we see around campus were created by students.”