Well, it’s about that time of the year when everything is winding down and here at The Poly, things are the same way. This Sunday, we will see a shift in the Editorial Board and a new Editor in Chief will be elected.
In the past few years, I have gotten a unique perspective of many of the happenings on campus. So, given that this next weekend will be focused on the transformation of Rensselaer, I thought I would put in my two cents of retrospect about my time at the good old ’Tute.
Even only three and a half years ago, when I first entered Nason Hall, things at RPI were different. The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center was still under construction, the Institute had just dealt with the student reaction against the New Directions initiatives for greeks, and the Center for Biotechnology and Disciplinary Studies had just been opened, with few students getting access to the building.
As my time has passed at the Institute, I have seen two major construction projects (EMPAC and the East Campus Athletic Village) become a reality with the potential for more student use than Biotech. For those of you who don’t use EMPAC, I would advise you do check out at least one concert or exhibit in your years here. Hopefully, these construction projects will extend to more facelifts in the future (for starters, the chairs in the Darrin Communications Center need some work). Biotech has also been further opened to undergraduate research and, having participated in an undergraduate research project under Director for the Biotech Center Jonathan Dordick, I can say the facilities and the experience of doing such a project are fantastic. And on a related note, there are even plans to renovate the chemical engineering labs for future students (a facelift that is much needed, having spent many hours in those labs this year).
I have seen a transformation of student life, which will continue long after I leave. The creation of the Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students initiative promises to be a great tool for students of Rensselaer. I remember my sophomore year being particularly tough and the Sophomore Year Experience that will be part of CLASS has the potential to create a much better atmosphere for students. I would have loved more of a support system in place, and I hope sophomores take advantage of what this program will offer them.
On the other side of the coin, I have also witnessed a change in the academics at the Institute. Although language programs were cut last year, student reaction has encouraged the development of programs set to be implemented as soon as next year; these opportunities promise a unique opportunity for students interested in pursuing languages. And for those of you who haven’t looked at the course selections for next semester since the first day it popped up on SIS, you may not have noticed that Julie Gutmann will be returning as an adjunct professor for two classes! If you’ve never taken a class with her, you are really missing out (and some of the courses even meet the communications requirement).
In the past few years, I have seen various types of student leaders that have been both positive and negative for students. Our current student government has done a good job in working with the administration to improve things for the general student body (though the lack of fireworks does contribute to a rather boring news section from my standpoint). In all seriousness, though, I hope student government in future years will take notes from the current one, but add a little more on the news front.
The breakdown and rebuilding of communications, however, has been easily the most striking shift I have seen at the Institute. Although I think we reached a low last year in terms of communication, I would like to believe that we are on the up-and-up. There are discussions happening about events on campus that aren’t simply a one-way street: the Greek Commons Agreement, the smoking policy (which involved talking to student government), and some of the benchmarking that will be occurring soon on other schools’ residential commons.
The decision I have come to about communication on campus is the following: if you take an active approach in fixing things, you can get far on the Rensselaer campus. Although not everything is in a student’s power to change, be active in seeking improvements if there is something you’re really passionate about. For starters, student government offers a myriad of committees catering to different areas of interest. If you’re interested in financial decisions in the realm of the Rensselaer Union, then join the Executive Board. If you like writing and finding out the whole story of campus news, join our staff (we always welcome writers). If you just have an opinion about one issue in particular that you just want to get out there, write us a letter for our editorial/opinion section.
There is a multitude of ways to make a difference and it only requires a little effort and knowing who to talk to. With the implementation of the Senate’s “Just Ask” program and the often forgotten IPAC, the answers you desire are just an e-mail away; even if it’s just asking where to look for further information about a topic or how to change things, they are there to help.
The important task inherent in making changes, however, is being adequately informed about what you’re trying to change. My biggest pet peeves last year were the assumptions that many students made about what happened at the Institute. I made it a personal goal to correct as many people that I heard talking about something that was wrong information or not complete information. But that effort could only go so far, hence a certain frustration on my part.
As a whole though, this phenomenon of misinformation has been greatly corrected this year. Whether it’s because there are fewer mind-boggling events happening on campus, the administration is communicating changes more effectively, or other resources of information like The Poly or RPInsider for the community are more prevalent and read, all these changes are positive ones that have helped the Institute truly transform in my time here.
Overall, I believe that students generally have a more positive feeling towards the institution they are attending and a certain level of pride in Rensselaer. Students want to have a say in things and are finding constructive ways to do so. The key word in that statement is “constructive.” I really support this change and hope to see subsequent class years continue this trend toward greater knowledge, pride, and participation in the ’Tute. The place really is what you make of it.