Whether lobbying at the state Capitol, cleaning at a local homeless shelter or negotiating with the Office of the Registrar on an affordable-textbooks campaign, Cathy Collentine says she works to make a difference.
Collentine, a University of Wisconsin sophomore, is the student state board chair of the Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group, known as WISPIRG.
Through WISPIRG, students have the opportunity to take action in their community. With campaigns ranging from renewable energy to corruption-free elections, WISPIRG addresses a wide range of environmental and social-justice issues throughout the state of Wisconsin.
And Collentine, leader of the Madison chapter of WISPIRG, said she puts her efforts into being an essential ingredient in making the organization effective.
Like many other students, Collentine said she first heard about WISPIRG through a short informational speech in one of her classes last year.
"I was involved in high school with things like student council, theater and drama and an environmental group, and was looking for some way to get involved here," Collentine said.
What really caught her attention, however, was the wide variety of campaigns WISPIRG addressed — like the "really great combination of environmental and social-justice issues," she added.
She also noted that the fact that WISPIRG is a non-partisan organization was crucial in causing her to join.
"It does help to bring in both sides of the issue," Collentine said.
Beginning her WISPIRG career as an intern, like most students do, Collentine said she later became a campaign coordinator. She was soon named an at-large member of the board and eventually became the student state board chair last semester, when the chairman at the time resigned.
Collentine's many responsibilities as leader of Madison's chapter of WISPIRG include organizing weekly meetings, bringing in speakers, informing students about what is going on around campus, coordinating events with other chapters, developing leadership and participating in all of WISPIRG's campaigns.
This semester, WISPIRG is focusing on six campaigns, including an affordable-textbooks campaign, a hunger and homelessness campaign and a clean-water campaign.
WISPIRG also has two energy campaigns, "Big Red Go Green" and "Campus Climate Challenge," which aim to increase the UW campus's energy efficiency.
Collentine and WISPIRG have also played a role in a renewable-energy standard bill that is up for approval in the Wisconsin Senate this semester.
Other WISPIRG members say they recognize the leadership and organizational skills of Collentine and the difference she has made in the organization.
Josie Iacarella, another sophomore member of WISPIRG who is co-coordinating the "Save Our Lakes" campaign this semester, commended Collentine's skills and efforts.
"[Cathy's] an amazing leader," Iacarella said. "She's a complete natural at it."
Iacarella added that Collentine did a great job of picking up where the former state board chair left off in the middle of last semester.
"This is one of the strongest semesters we have had so far," she said. "[Collentine is] involved in everything and is really good at pulling things together. She's really supportive of every campaign."
According to Iacarella, Collentine recently took WISPIRG's campaigns national on a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C. Iacarella said it was great that Madison's voice could be heard on a national scale and that Collentine was the one to take it there.