8:25 a.m., Oct. 16, 2009----University of Delaware students have begun an international online student network called GrassBranches, and have announced that UD students can apply online to meet Gen. Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State, during his Nov. 3 campus visit.
Applications for the meeting can be filled out at the GrassBranches Web site, and will be accepted until Thursday, Oct. 22.
GrassBranches is a “network that connects small groups of students with leaders in all fields,” according to Gina Siddiqui, a senior economics major in the UD Honors Program. She said the Honors Program student initiative has been encouraged and assisted by Provost Tom Apple.
Through one of the earlier GrassBranches events, students met with Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, who was on campus Sept. 3 to discuss his work planting schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Following Powell, there are plans to meet with Dave Matushik, co-founder and CEO of Green Delaware Recycling, on Nov. 8, and Steve Larson, founder of the Puentes de Salud clinic on Feb. 4, 2010, in Philadelphia.
GrassBranches is also planning meetings in Washington, D.C., at one of America's ten largest law firms, on New York City's Madison Avenue with the president of a public relations firm, and behind the scenes at the Museum of Modern Art with an art conservator.
According to the GrassBranches Web site, the organization helps students and leaders branch out and connect with each other. The group wants students to meet with leaders who inspire, be it through wind energy or word games, urban migration or underground music, hacker initiatives or haute couture.
Because no more than five students meet with any one leader, the meetings are personal and private.
Following the meeting, the GrassBranches community will help students plan a follow-up event to share the meeting with the world however they want.
GrassBranches, the Web site notes, “is more than just a support structure that allows you to meet leaders: it's a launching pad that allows you to become a leader yourself.”
“GrassBranches is a new way to bring students and leaders together,” said Gealina Dun, a biological sciences major in the Honors Program. “It is unique because students can take control of what they want and make it happen. We hope that GrassBranches will be a useful tool that many people take advantage of in the future.”
Patrick O'Gorman, an Honors Program student majoring in international relations, said, “GrassBranches is a great concept because it not only promotes leadership by connecting students with innovators in the real world but also because it fosters a community within GrassBranches where students are able to learn from each other.”
Siddiqui said the name GrassBranches “contrasts us with grassroots efforts, which isolate members and don't work with the established power structure. We don't build 'roots' underground, but build 'branches' between prominent leaders and our members in a very visible, interactive way on our Web site.”