Elizabeth Johnson illustrates student initiative in Socially Conscious Investment Club

By Emma Milling
Contributing Writer

The Socially Conscious Investment Club (SoCo), “a student run club that is all about promoting transparency of the University’s endowment and then eventually leading to a socially responsible invested endowment,” works to “reexamine the University’s endowment and investments to best reflect the institutional values.” The master plan is available online. 

Elizabeth Johnson (C’22) is one of the directors of the SoCo. She was approached at the activity fair her freshman year by the SoCo directors. The club’s desire for lucidity and drive for environmental justice is what attracted Johnson. She found a friend to attend a meeting with her and, aptly enough, Johnson and that particular friend are now the co-directors of SoCo. The club has remained salient to Johnson because of the mission and the incredible people involved, but it is especially important to her in this moment because of a statement made by Katherine Wilkinson — “the climate change crisis is a leadership crisis.” 

Johnson believes that “Sewanee could really be a leader in this movement of socially responsible investing… I think it is important to hold the school responsible for words that they have published and signed themselves.” This is relevant currently to Johnson, because many feel that the SoCo is the only program working towards holding the University accountable for the statements made in 2013 about a socially-conscious endowment. 

On September 30, SoCo met with the investment committee, composed of trustees of the University and other alumni that deal with finances of the University. “We presented to them who [they are] and what [their] goals are and why [they] think it is important to socially responsibly invest.” 

Johnson said that “the main goals we are working towards right now is working with the Investment Managing Committee (IMC) to create a more frequent and consistent dialogue with them… we think it is important that they hear the student’s voices too.” 

Johnson said that they are still waiting on feedback from their most recent meeting and insists that it is very important to SoCo to maintain a respectful dialogue with the IMC. “[They] received an email from the chair of the board of regents who was at the IMC meeting saying that they want to keep the dialogue going and that if [they] have any questions they can reach out to the treasurer. So that is where [they] are sitting right now” Johnson.

First and foremost right now, SoCo’s main goal is gaining larger student involvement to continue the work that they have started. Johnson concedes that the club can seem intimidating since it does deal with finance, endowments, and investing. 

SoCo is a way for people to learn about economics and investing, but it is still possible to be an active and involved member without having perfect knowledge on those subjects. She emphasized the need for lower classmen involvement, as the majority of current members are juniors and seniors; first and foremost right now, SoCo’s main goal is gaining larger student involvement to continue the work that they have started. 

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