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Carletta tells Grand Marshal history

Hello, RPI! As you may know, I was just recently elected as the 148th Grand Marshal. I am very honored to hold this position, and I will do my best to serve the RPI community. I would like to thank everyone who voted in the election this year as we had one of the highest voter turnouts ever with 3,096 students. This is incredible and continues the trend of increased student participation in elections. Hopefully, this trend carries on next year, as voting is very important, since it’s a channel for every student to express their opinion on student government and the direction of RPI in general.

The Grand Marshal, or GM, is the highest-elected office for RPI students. The history of the GM has always fascinated me because of how closely it is intertwined with RPI history and traditions. The position of Grand Marshal was first created in 1865 to honor Albert M. Harper, a student respected and admired by his classmates. He entered Rensselaer in 1860 and quickly earned a reputation of being an earnest and successful scholar. Due to the American Civil War, he entered the army in his sophomore year, but after being wounded, he returned to RPI in 1865. Harper was recognized for his extraordinary military career and for the service he provided to his country when his fellow classmates created the position of Grand Marshal for him. The GM, as it was commonly called, was to head and represent the entire student body on all occasions.

Since then the position has grown substantially. The Grand Marshal presides over the Student Senate and works closely with its committees to improve the lives of students on campus. The Senate is composed of 26 senators, and it is the Grand Marshal’s job to instruct and provide direction for the Student Senate. The GM also works closely with the RPI administration to communicate student ideas and provide feedback.

The first and, in my opinion, one of the most important decisions a Grand Marshal makes is appointing Senate committee chairs. The chairs of these committees don’t necessarily have to be veterans within student government. These people should be passionate about what they are doing and strive to make their campus a better place through effective outreach and programs. The Grand Marshal also appoints a representative to the Executive Board, the financial sector of student government, and meets often with the director of the Union and members of the president of the Institute’s cabinet.

One of the main things I would like to do as Grand Marshal is increase participation within student government. There are so many positions and leadership opportunities available to everyone. If you are looking for a way to get more involved on campus and potentially make a difference, then you should really consider looking into student government. If you are interested in learning more about these available positions or about the history of the Grand Marshal I mentioned earlier, please feel free to e-mail me at gm@rpi.edu.