Laura Morse was Student Activist of the Month for May 2014!
Why are you vegan? Why do you promote veganism? Who has been your biggest inspiration? Have any books or philosophies or people been important to you?
I went vegan when I was thirteen after learning about the treatment of animals on factory farms. The books that were influential in making the transition for me were “Diet for a New America” and “Animal Liberation”. I feel healthier and have more energy since going vegan.
What are your hobbies outside of the veg club?
I enjoy nature time and working out—mostly jogging, hiking and zumba. I like my soy latte breaks with friends, doing artsy stuff, and wandering the library aisles looking for fun books to read.
What are you studying in school and what do you want to do in the future?
I’m finishing up a Masters in Counselor Education, and I hope to use it to empower students to get involved with veg and animal rights activism on their campuses.
How did your family react to your veganism?
They thought it was “just a phase”. I learned to cook for myself, since at first they weren’t too supportive of the idea. Now my parents and sister are vegan—they kept trying all the delicious vegan food and decided it wasn’t as difficult as they had initially thought.
How is the vegan scene at your school?
Pretty awesome–since it’s a huge campus I’m always meeting new vegetarians/vegans when
I’m out leafleting and inviting them to join the club! We have about 30 active members and another 270 that receive our weekly e-mails.
How long has your club been around?
The Vegetarian Club at Penn State was formed in 2009, but there have been periods when the club was inactive, since it was hard to find people to take on leadership roles.
What types of events and activities have you planned?
We have weekly meetings, bring speakers and have fun social events that are always going on. Check out our website for other event ideas for your club:http://pennstatevegclub.weebly.com.
What has been your biggest challenges & mistakes?
Initially I was super pumped to do tons of activism with the club. But getting feedback from students at Penn State, I learned that most primarily wanted to be in the club for social events. As a group, we worked to find a balance to keep students engaged and coming back with fun social gatherings, while also trying to make positive veg change on our campus.
What was your favorite activity or event?
Our fall semester trip to Farm Sanctuary was probably my favorite since it was a great group bonding experience. We got to spend time with the animals, meet new vegetarians who joined the group, and get soft serve vegan ice cream and Chinese food in Watkins Glen.
What has been the club’s biggest success?
We added a lot of structure with an executive board for the club–this helped us to coordinate so many events! With the addition of a social chair, public relations chair, and community liaison this allowed us to accomplish more at Penn State to help animals. We were able to host six speakers this year, including: George Eisman, Jon Camp, Rachel Atcheson, Kathy Pollard, Nick Cooney and Ingrid Newkirk. Our campaign this year focuses on plant-based egg transition in the dining halls.
Why is in-school activism important?
So other students can learn the benefits of a veg diet, and see how easy and fun it is! It’s one of the easiest and most influential decisions that we can make–saving thousands of lives over a lifetime. And think how many more lives you can save when you start doing more activism to get the word out to others on your campus.
Do you have any tips for youth who want to go vegetarian or vegan?
Go to your library, and check-out cookbooks like “Vegan with a Vengeance”, “Veganomicon”, and “Students Go Vegan”. Then, join some local groups so you have support from other veg people in your community. Having support is crucial to help you feel like you’re part of the movement—and to share your yummy vegan food with!
What advice do you have for other youth activists?
I was really shy and quiet when I was in middle school but getting involved with activism helped me find my voice to help save animals. My biggest piece of advice would be to either get involved with a veg/animal rights group or start one if there isn’t one in your area. Feel free to send me any questions if you want to talk about how you can get involved with activism–I love working with students to help start veg groups at their schools!