Over the years, one thing has been lacking here at RPI—school spirit. Although groups on campus, exist for such a purpose, such as the Red Army, never has the entire student body been brought together in an event other than Big Red Freakout!. Senior Garett Vassel of the men’s hockey team began a vision last spring where all members of the RPI community—students, staff, professors—could be united as one entity to raise school spirit and awareness of events on campus. Along with fellow senior and president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee Alex Lamparski, and the Interfraternity Council Vice President of Social junior Ryan Koehler, a new group on campus was formed: RPI United.
RPI United’s task is simple: to bring everyone on campus together. According to the group’s Facebook site, “RPI United was formed with the intention of creating more interaction and connections between groups in order to get everyone involved and to use our resources to create events so everyone will have a good time.” In the very near future, RPI United will be an officially recognized Union club.
Although Vassel was the one to bring the idea to fruition, he stresses that the group is not about getting sell-outs at the Houston Field House for men’s hockey games. “RPI United is not about hockey; it’s much greater than that,” says Vassel. He went on to explain that the goal of the group is to increase campus awareness of other events on campus, such as Terra Café, field hockey games, women’s hockey games, lacrosse games, and football games. “If there’s a chess match on campus, we want to know about it, and then let everyone else know.”
Right now, RPI United is run by members of clubs, greek life, sports teams, and student council. Membership is easy: everyone who has ever walked on campus is already signed up.
Vassel’s idea began after he realized how disconnected the campus community was. Each student is tied with a stigma. “Oh, he’s hockey, she’s a field hockey player, he’s a gamer,” he explained. “Everyone is not getting a shared experience.” Vassel’s goal is to create more school spirit and a better student experience on campus. The group does this through a simple three-step plan: Figure out what’s going on, let the campus know what’s going on, and then bring the two together. The idea was also supported by the various coaches around campus, including men’s hockey Head Coach Seth Appert.
One of the strengths of the new club is that, as Vassel described it, “All the super powers are in one spot.” Each of the highest-ranked officials in student government—such as class presidents, as well as members of greek life and other clubs on campus—all have large stakes in RPI United. The result is a group that has the potential for substantial funding to put on events. Last spring, Vassel and other members of RPI United hosted a tailgate during one of the final men’s lacrosse games of the season. Although RPI United had no official funds of its own yet, it was able to put on a first-class event, drawing on resources from the clubs it is tied to. Vassel explained that the group served in the ballpark of 600 burgers, countless hot dogs, chips, iced tea, soda, and other snacks, all free of charge to those in attendance of the game. “That’s one of the cool things about RPI United. We have so much potential due to all our sources and so many connections on campus,” he elaborated. “We really want this to stick.”
Often, RPI United is compared to another school-spirit group on campus—the Red Army. The Red Army, which was started after the “Go Be Red” competition held on campus four years ago, has seen better days. After the original founders graduated, the club fell apart and was reduced to a small cheering section at hockey games. Members are also required to pay a fee to join. Vassel applauded the original idea, but saw RPI United as something that could be much more. To avoid the pitfalls that the Red Army saw, Vassel made sure the core of the group was a good mix of the various classes on campus. “Leadership is not on the way out. We have seniors, as well as others that will be here to carry the torch further after we’re gone. It’s a good mix of the years really,” said Vassel.
RPI United continued to pump its tires over Homecoming Weekend, working with Associate Advancement Officer Peter Pedone in the Alumni Relations Department during FanFest, held at the East Campus Athletic Village opening ceremonies. The group manned a tent before and during the football game to provide face painting and temporary tattoos, free of charge, to members of the RPI community and others that had come to participate in the festivities. “It was great, because we were able to get our name out there, and to be an aid in the event,” said Vassel.
Vassel is continuing his effort to make RPI United a staple on campus. Together with Lamparski and Koehler, to whom he also gives tremendous credit, the trio has really gotten the ball rolling with publicity and helping out around campus. Currently, the group is working on getting its name on banners and supporting other school events. Vassel’s ultimate goal is to have RPI United take control of the Hockey Line, one of RPI’s most beloved traditions that has been lacking in recent years, in addition to creating other lasting events that will aid in the student experience.
“RPI United is about getting everyone on campus on the same page, and preventing walls,” explained Vassel. “There is no motive or hidden agenda, we aren’t pushing or selling anything. RPI United is all about making the school and student life a better experience.”
As RPI United continues to bring together the student body, look for Vassel and other members of the group to be there supporting all events on campus. For more information on RPI United, or to get your event promoted through the club, please search for “RPI United” on Facebook.