Promoting civic engagement

Roosevelt Institute member Liam Grace-Flood ’17 participates in #iSOTU, a national webcast held prior to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address.

It’s almost as if the Wheaton College chapter of the Roosevelt Institute won two grants.

The chapter recently learned that its national organization, the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, awarded the Wheaton group a Community Building Grant to fund activities that connect the campus and promote its visibility.

The Wheaton group’s award was followed almost immediately by news that the national organization is is one of nine nonprofit organizations worldwide to receive the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The $750,000 award provides funding to invest in the network’s long-term sustainability.

“Our chapter is proud to share in this honor for the Campus Network and grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for its support. We have carved out a space for ourselves at Wheaton as implementers of change, and we hope to carry that with us for the rest of our lives,” said Sarah M. Estrela ‘15, president of the Wheaton chapter. “Some of our alumni have gone on to become Marshall Scholars; others have moved on to work in the White House and local non-profits. We firmly believe that young people can be the change they want to see in the world when they have the opportunity.”

The Wheaton group is part of a national organization, founded in 2004, that now boasts more than 120 chapters spread across 38 states and describes itself as the first and largest student-run policy organization in the United States. Through curriculum, trainings, and leadership development programs, it mobilizes college students to develop policy solutions to issues at the local, state, and national level and engage with community leaders and elected officials to turn their ideas into action.

“The MacArthur Award guarantees sustainability for our entire network,” said Joelle Gamble, national director of the campus network. “It’s an investment in future Roosevelt’ers at Wheaton and across the nation.”

Wheaton’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute was founded in 2009 with the aim of creating a forum for the college’s students to dig deep into the nation’s key domestic and global political issues and develop ideas for change. The group has had much success in raising awareness of public policy issues and solutions, on campus and off.

Wheaton students have consistently had their policy ideas published in the Campus Network’s annual 10 Ideas policy journals, tackling issues ranging from sex trafficking to defense contracting.

Its annual event, WheaTalks––now in its fourth consecutive year and modeled after TED Talks––has grown into one of the most anticipated events of the school year, where students, faculty and staff band together to celebrate each other’s passions and ideas. Last semester, the chapter focused heavily on crafting policy solutions to issues of police brutality and racism.

The community building grant that Wheaton’s chapter received from the national organization will enable the chapter to launch an on-campus policy journal that can serve as a forum for students to express their ideas, Estrela said.

“That’s the exciting part about the award,” she added. “We have some guaranteed funding to experiment and take our ideas to the next level.”


WheaTalks—Ten ideas, 10 speakers, 10 minutes each. TED Talks-style presentations that kickstart conversations about amazing ideas. Add to your calendar >>