I started on The Poly in my sophomore year (August of 2001). Before joining, I had been seriously considering transferring to another school. While I have always loved math and science, which you can find in abundance at RPI, I always have been and always will be a writer. I had great friends, but just didn’t feel that all of me belonged at RPI. I decided to give it a try for one more semester, and also decided to join The Poly. And that was what it took to complete my RPI experience.
I’m sure most of the current staff of The Poly will laugh when I say I “interviewed” to join the paper. Really, it was a discussion to see where I would fit, which we have with everyone who shows up in our office in a much less formal manner. Somehow we decided I should start in the Copy department, but that was by no means where I stayed.
That fall, things were going pretty well, and every week I found it harder to leave the paper. And then I remember going to my Tuesday morning class as the initial reports of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were breaking. Needless to say, class ended early, and I spent the rest of my day in The Poly office and around campus collecting pictures, quotes, and stories—I was mostly assigned to cover the blood drive. Back at the office, we put our scraps of data together to provide the information that helped band the community together as we all struggled to understand the new world that had just begun around us.
From that point on, I took on the role of collecting information and sharing it as my purpose in life. I worked with campus administration, greek life, Student Government, and any other campus group I could reach to share their stories and open lines of communication. To me, The Poly was the forum for this communication at RPI, and keeping it running was one of the most important things I could do.
When I became managing editor in 2002, and then editor in chief in 2003, we were facing some of the same issues the current staff faces, but to a lesser degree. Our advertising revenue was less than expected and required some major revisions to our budget to make things work. There was pressure to move to a more digital format, which has only increased over the years. Our staffing levels were lower than we would have preferred (some of us would use pseudonyms to break the monotony of seeing the same names over and over again). We had a strong, core group that would stay to the wee hours of the morning the night before publication, and we were like family. We believed in what we were doing, and we loved The Poly (and RPI as a whole).
I know it sounds corny to say that The Poly has made me who I am today, but in many ways it has. While I am now a manager, the purpose that The Poly gave me is what started my career as a technical writer and then systems engineer, and I have had the privilege of working on many cool projects based on the purpose, training, and experiences I gained while on The Poly. Serving as business manager gave me insight into how to run a company that many managers I run across today simply lack. I have yet to meet anyone who can write as efficiently or accurately as anyone who served on the paper with me, and that certainly gives us all a leg up in any field. Yes, I gave a lot of myself to The Poly, but it gave me a lot in return.
Today, the paper is at a crossroads, and it has to adapt to the digital environment that all media now lives in. To do this, talented people who want to experiment with new ways of doing things in the areas of online content and advertising are needed. Sure, it will take a lot of your time and you won’t get classroom credit for it, but you will get the opportunity to gain some amazing experience and build a real portfolio. You will be able to change your campus for the better, and you will know that you are doing something important. And it will stay with you forever.