Activist Spotlight: Elena Marmo
Our Activist Spotlight this week is Elena Marmo! She is a senior here at Pace who has gotten involved all around campus, including starting the Student Peace Alliance, and working with Model UN. Read on to find out more of her contributions to the activist community!
Year of Graduation: 2015
Major(s): Political Science
Minor(s): Peace and Justice Studies
Career Aspiration: To work in humanitarianism, eventually obtaining a PhD and working both in the field and as a Professor.
What are some of the groups or projects that you have become involved in?
I have been involved with various Peace and Justice Studies related groups throughout my time at Pace University. I worked with a few students to create an Amnesty International chapter, which then morphed into the current student organization, the Student Peace Alliance. I also participate in the Model United Nations program, serving as a Head Delegate for the team and course–learning about international issues and participating in conferences each semester. I also have been active with #PaceUEndRape recently, raising awareness on campus and working with organizers to effectively lobby for change. As a Resident Advisor I am very active in the Residence Halls, trying to get students to engage with interesting issues both on and off campus.
How did you come to create and become the president of the Student Peace Alliance?
The Student Peace Alliance was created after many students and I attempted to build a peace and justice focused community on campus. After Amnesty International and the Peace and Justice Student Association both fizzled due to lack of interest, we created the Student Peace Alliance to serve as an inclusive group that encourages learning and action and fosters a community amongst students. In the Student Peace Alliance, we balance learning and thinking with advocacy and action. Focusing on a different issue each week, we meet for a student-led presentation on a topic, followed by group discussion, and planning to take action. From there we often attend protests or events outside of the University.
Can you discuss your efforts to get Pace to divest in military technology?
Most recently I have become very interested in nuclear disarmament issues and I am currently working with Peace and Planet to organize a collective of Pace University students to attend the mass mobilization on April 26th to call for a ban on all nuclear weapons. After taking a course in disarmament with Dr. Bolton, I began to think creatively about ways to weaken the reliance upon nuclear weapons and security systems. After reading Reaching Critical Will’s report “Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” I teamed up with CCAR staff member Caitlin Boley to organize action for students to demand Pace University create investment policies that prevent the University from investing in military technology or any industries that pose a threat to life or the environment.
What motivates you to be civically engaged?
From a very young age I was surrounded by individuals eager to create change and not be content with the status quo. With a Union Leader for a Father and a Parent-Teacher Association President for a Mother, I think I’ve always approached any situation with an eye for how we could improve the world. Once I came to Pace University, many of my courses with Dr. Emily Welty, Dr. Matthew Bolton, and Dr. Meghana Nayak forced me to begin to think about the complexities of helping and calling for social change. I think that without those amazing professors providing me with intellectual and personal motivation, I would not be the same activist I am today. I always try to be cognizant of my power and privilege in my activism to create a better world, speaking up when something is wrong but also knowing when to step aside and be an ally for those who are most affected by some of our world’s largest problems.
Anything else that you would like to add?
For any student who is struggling to get involved on campus or off campus, I would suggest finding someone who you think would be a good mentor and/or friend. Take advantage of your peers–so many students at Pace are so incredibly passionate about different issues and can always connect you to different ways you can get involved. Also, make an effort to form relationships with professors who can connect you to events and activities around NYC. Take advantage of the amazing network of activists on campus here at Pace University!