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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

What MPIRG brings to Carleton

<ll term of my first year at Carleton College. It could definitely be said that those first couple of weeks found me a tad bit lonely, ridiculously overwhelmed with the Arabic alphabet, and aimless in my extracurricular involvement. Thankfully, I made amazing friends, figured out how to pronounce the three distinct ‘h’ sounds in Arabic, and discovered a rewarding organization to get involved with: MPIRG. The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (gotta love spewing that name when curious family and friends inquire what I’ve been up to) attracted my attention because 1) they had posters and I was free at 8:15 on Tuesdays, 2) I’m passionate about preserving this planet’s resources and MPIRG has an environmental taskforce, and 3) I believe that widespread, lasting change must take place on an expansive level and was drawn to MPIRG’s statewide political work. So, I went to that first interest meeting, ate some cookies, participated in the introductory questions, and learned about what MPIRG is, does, and hopes to accomplish.

We broke into taskforces, and as a group, brainstormed possible projects to work on in the upcoming terms. I was hooked. In my high school, our major environmental initiative was getting recycling bins into the classrooms, but here in Carleton MPIRG’s environmental task force, we envisioned sulfide mining awareness events, mandatory Northfield recycling initiatives, and sustainable agriculture policies. Even I, the lowly first-year, got to express my enthusiasm for composting and get feedback on potential events we could organize.

So, I got involved with MPIRG and have had some really fabulous and beneficial experiences this year. Leading up to and during MPIRG’s Candidate Forum this fall, I learned about the major players and issues in Minnesota politics and listened to state and local candidates articulate and answer questions about their platforms. With this knowledge, I voted for the first time (a quick shout out to the “Iron Jawed Angels”, I watched that movie this weekend and am feeling overwhelming gratitude towards the women who worked tirelessly to pass the 19th Amendment giving me the opportunity to enjoy that right, but anyhow…); then, I attended the Election Watching Party where brilliant Carls who know much more about American politics than I, filled me in on the events taking place on a state and national level. Working to get community input on MPIRG’s Rice County Sustainable Agriculture campaign, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a ‘townie’ about agriculture and his work patenting efficient greenhouse glass: legitimately fascinating stuff.

Meeting with MPIRG’s Organizing Director, I learned how to begin organizing a campaign for a Northfield mandatory recycling ordinance and was connected with environmental projects that campuses are currently undertaking throughout Minnesota.

Looking ahead to next year when MPIRG’s funding will hopefully be reinstated, I’m excited to continue working on the environmental taskforce’s campaign to make business recycling mandatory in Northfield, having a vote on the issues that the statewide organization advocates for, and hearing everyone’s outstandingly interesting and progressive ideas for campus, local, and world-changing projects.

I’ve grown a lot from my first few terms at Carleton and am optimistically looking forward to gaining greater experiences, knowledge, and skills from MPIRG events and campaigns in the years to come. I believe it’s important for us to restore MPIRG’s funding at Carleton so that Carleton students can continue to have the great experiences I’ve had, and so that we can do even more to engage Carleton students in politics.

-Courtney Dufford is a first year student.

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