Affiliate Group of the Week

Affiliate Group of the Week #2: Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics at University of Wisconsin-Madison

November 15, 2012

Our campus groups do great things every day of the week, and rarely get the recognition they deserve. That's why we're starting a program to recognize CFI On Campus Affiliate Groups of the Week! It's a way for groups to get their name out there more publicly and share their successes with the world. Each week, we'll pick a group that's doing fantastic work to highlight. 

Up this week is the Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics (AHA) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who recently received $67,000 in grant money to support their group's work providing direct services to students on campus. Quinn Heck, one of their officers, graciously took the time to answer a few of our burning questions. 

Affiliate groups will be featured every Thursday evening. If you know of a group that you'd like to see featured here, email their info to oncampus@centerforinquiry.net and let us know! We want to hear your great stories. And if your group is not yet affiliated, get on that, would ya? 

wisconsin AHA 

First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What's your "atheist/secular conversion story," if you have one?
I am Quinn Heck, president of AHA. I am a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where I am studying Biochemistry. I plan to graduate in 2016.

I grew up in a central Minnesotan town that was very religious. My parents raised me in a very secular way, in that they always taught me about how different cultures and people hold different beliefs. Additionally, they taught me that it is very important to look closely at the beliefs we hold and why we hold them, so that we do not just hold them because society tells us to. For these lessons, I am very thankful to my parents.

How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you to create the organization?
AHA was founded in 2005 by a small group of undergrads who felt atheist students needed a group of their own on campus. AHA was started before I was a student here so I don’t know the specifics on its beginning.

What is your group's name? How did you decide on that name?
Our group's name was chosen to be as welcoming to non-religious students as possible. Almost everyone in the secular movement can identify with (at least) one of the three labels—atheist, agnostic, or humanist. It also gave us a fun acronym, AHA!

How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
We have 1289 members on our email list, 332 members in our facebook group, and around 40 members at our weekly meetings. We organize a variety of events to get as many people as possible involved in AHA. We offer weekly discussion meetings, social events like team trivia and board game nights, numerous speaking events and debates, as well as volunteering opportunities.

As an example, could you share one thing your group accomplished that you're most proud of in the past year?
I would like to share two things we are most proud of. It’s hard to pick between them both.

Last year we put on the Freethought Fest, a large festival completely free to the public. We hosted 21 speakers and had over 700 attendees over the 3 day conference. This was the first time we had tried to organize something of this magnitude, and it was a huge success. So much so, that we have decided to make it an annual event. We were very excited to see all of the positive feedback we received from those who attended or have watched the talks online. I am personally very proud to have been a part of it and can’t wait to see how this year goes. Here's our blog post on the Freethought Fest.

Our other major accomplishment we are proud of is our recently approved $67,000 budget from our university for the 2013-2014 school year. We were granted the money through a program offered at UW that provides comprehensive funding to select groups who offer services to the campus that the university does not. With this money we will be able to launch two important services: "Faith Questioning", peer-to-peer religious advising service, designed to help students struggling with their faith, and to encourage all participants to develop their own religious identity, and "Secular Support Groups", discussion-based meetings for nonreligious, questioning, or any students interested in discussing topics relating to religion in a large group setting. We have also been granted funding for $11,500 advertising, over $16,000 for the Freethough Fest, and $30,000 for eight paid staff positions. Here’s our blog post on it our fundraising success.

How did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future?
AHA has been affiliated with CFI since before I joined. We have worked with CFI to organize events, including the Freethought Fest and bringing Debbie Goddard to campus last year. We greatly appreciate the support we receive from CFI, and hope to work in the future to get our message out to a larger audience.

If you know of a group that you'd like to see featured here, please let us know at oncampus@centerforinquiry.net.

 

About the Author: Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser's photo

Sarah Kaiser is a field organizer for CFI On Campus. Prior to her work at CFI, she got her start in the freethought movement as the co-founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, where she helped organize a nationally recognized atheist bus ad campaign and large campus speaking events. As an atheist, a feminist, and a small part of the universe's way of understanding itself, she is thrilled at the chance to help advance CFI's mission. On Twitter: @sarahebkaiser.

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