Third annual Improve UT Challenge accepts applications

Brynne Herzfeld

The third annual Improve UT Challenge, an initiative to suggest improvements to the University, is accepting ideas through Feb. 18. Created in 2017 by Vivianne Tu, a management and business honors senior, and 2017 UT alumnus Micky Wolf, the competition is open to all students at the University.

“We had two or three months to put together the entire competition,” Tu said. “It was really just open to anyone who had a great idea, like a really big problem and a great idea to fix it.”

With no application fee or specific requirements, any student can voice their opinion about what needs changing on campus. The winning group receives resources and funding from the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs to help implement their idea. 

“It provides an avenue for students to express their concerns about the University without having to invest a whole portion of their life into an organization,” said Isheta Kumar, chemistry and economics sophomore. “Students are busy, they have lots of things going on, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have ideas to improve the University.”

Kumar and mechanical engineering senior Meggie Engalla are co-directors of the Improve UT Challenge Agency within Student Government. They sort through the applications to select which ideas advance to the semifinals. Kumar said they decide based on how realistic the idea is. On Feb. 23, the semifinalists will present their ideas to a panel of judges, who select the finalists.

“It’s usually one winning group that gets the funding and resources, but this year we’d like to try and focus on the second and third places as well,” Engalla said. “Just because you don’t win this pitch event doesn’t mean you don’t get access to make your idea happen.”

In the past, the agency struggled to keep in contact with previous winners and monitor the projects, Kumar said. She said this is something she and Engalla hope to change.

“Because there’s such a high turnover rate in Student Government, it is kind of hard to keep track of people from two or three years ago,” Kumar said. “We want the winners of the challenge to realize that they can continue to reach out to our agency for help.”