Beautiful U Day sweeps its way through campus

More than 400 people helped clean up the University campus in the event sponsored by University Services.

Hundreds of people gave time, energy and a little sweat to clean up campus Thursday in the eighth annual Beautiful U Day across campus.

The daylong event, organized by University Services, corralled more than 400 people to sweep, clean or simply spruce up places. Beyond the work, participants could also enjoy a free lunch, hear announcements or see dedications throughout the day.

“Minnesota takes some pride in this campus,” said Lori-Anne Williams, communications director for University Services. “Everything we have here is from the state, so we have to take care of it.

“It’s about people pitching in to do more than what anyone could have done on their own.”

Beautiful U Day included more than two dozen events and programs, with a theme focused on the Mississippi River and its connection to the University.

“It’s God’s green Earth, and it’s a privilege to help take care of it,” said volunteer Matthew Ruiz, a third-year doctoral student. “The river is a lot dirtier where I grew up in St. Louis.”

Ruiz participated in a storm-drain-marking event to prevent pollution from entering and flowing into the river.

Gene Christenson, an employee in the department of environmental health and safety, who also volunteered for the drain-marking event, said, “We have a responsibility to make sure bad things don’t go down there.”

Other events included a wellness walk, the unveiling of the new Bell Museum logo, an Oak Street ramp beautification project and an unveiling of artwork in the West Bank Arts Quarter.

The funding for this year’s Beautiful U Day came from the Office of the President, which provided $50,000 for the event.

Student groups and University departments were encouraged to apply for grants for projects they wished to complete as part of the day’s planned events. A review committee decided on the applications.

Approximately 25 student groups applied for grants, Williams said. Seventeen were later selected and fully funded. University departments that applied for grants were required to match the amount provided by the grant toward their projects.

The average amount given to student groups was $1,500, and the average given to University departments was $2,700, Williams said.

“The students really had the best ideas for these events,” she said.

University officials had several concerns coming into this year’s Beautiful U Day, which has usually taken place during the week of Spring Jam.

Despite the event happening a different week, volunteering remained strong, Williams said.

“Students have been really in this,” she said. “It’s been wonderful.”

Organizers said they were also concerned with making sure the entire campus was involved.

“One of the things we really wanted to do is make sure that the West Bank and St. Paul didn’t just become bookends in this,” Williams said.

Most volunteers said helping out was rewarding and that they would volunteer for the events in the future.

“I do it to be a part of how the University looks, especially now with all of the student tours visiting,” said Kelly Brooks, an employee in the department of environmental health and safety.

Approximately one-fourth of the volunteers were students, said Aaron Strozinsky, the communications coordinator for University Services. But he said many students were walk-up volunteers who had not preregistered to help.

Other volunteers included University faculty members, alumni and local community members.

Martha Coventry, a University Relations employee, attended the University in the 1970s and currently has a daughter who is a first-year student here. Coventry has volunteered twice for Beautiful U Day events.

“One day a year is nothing; it’s the least we can do,” Coventry said. “I’m so pleased that my daughter has the opportunity to come to a place that has so much respect for its physical environment.”