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IPFW students attending Chicago Green Festival

The Sociology Student Association at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne invited environmental and fair-trade activist Kevin Danaher to give the keynote address last October for the inaugural campus Sociology Awareness Week.

The event went so well that Danaher returned the favor. The Global Exchange co-founder and Green Festivals producer issued a special invitation for IPFW students to attend the Chicago Green Festival this month.

IPFW Green Conference

Kevin Danaher (left) visited students at IPFW for the inaugural campus Sociology Awareness Week last October.

Fourteen students plan to make the trip for the May 17-18 festival at Chicago's Navy Pier, said Janelle Nannini, president of the Sociology Student Association. The festival will feature about 80 speakers including Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a music stage and hundreds of presentations and exhibits by social entrepreneurs and green businesses.

"The list of speakers is just amazing," Nannini said. "There are multiple speakers and workshops at each time slot which, I think, will give all 14 of our students something they will want to see and hear."

Nannini and other IPFW students organized the Sociology Student Association about a year and a half ago. Planning a week for raising awareness of the discipline, the students decided to focus on the growing interest in environmental initiatives.

"It was one of the subjects that people were buzzing about on this campus," Nannini said. "We said, if people want to talk about it, alright, we can facilitate that."

That decision led to an invitation to Danaher, a popular speaker, organizer and author of such books as Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots, Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power and Corporations Are Gonna Get Your Momma: Globalization and the Downsizing of the American Dream.

About 100 people turned out to hear him speak on a Thursday night, Nannini said. "He's been extremely helpful," she said. "He stayed in contact, sent us a library of his books and wrote a letter to student government to endorse this."

Danaher also arranged for Chicago Green Festival admission fees to be waived for the students. Travel and lodging costs will be sponsored by the Indiana-Purdue Student Government Association, the Office of Research and External Support, Student Affairs, and Student Life at IPFW. Outgoing student body president Aaron Williamson and incoming president Kody Tinnel, who made campus green initiatives part of his campaign platform, are among the students making the trip.

Nannini said the students will make connections and learn about resources that can help with projects aimed at greening the IPFW campus and the Fort Wayne community.

"We're looking for ideas," she said, "things people can do on their own and in their homes that can help themselves economically as well as help the environment."