Editorial Notebook

Handing down community

Clubs. They’re my favorite part of RPI—that and academics, which for me are very closely tied together. Not to brag, but I’ve been a club officer since spring of freshman year and am currently an officer of four clubs (EcoLogic, Student Sustainability Task Force, The Poly, and Statler & Waldorf). Probably the only reason I am still at RPI is because of my amazing fellow club members; they’ve helped me through so much. They have been my friends, my mentors, as well as my support network when things have gotten rough.

As a senior, I find myself increasingly thinking about how I need to ensure that my younger officers and members are able to run the club after I graduate. The main goal I took on, purposefully in the case of EcoLogic, and accidentally in the case of S&W, is to not let a club die under my watch. I’ve realized that goal includes not letting it die after my watch, too.

So what am I doing to prevent club death? Obviously, it is uncertain whether my strategies will work, but based on my experiences of how operations were handed down to me, I think they will. First of all, I’m trying to make sure my officers know everything they’ll need to know. How does the scary process of navigating club finances work? How is the website edited and kept up-to-date? Who are important contacts to have for various events?

Websites, especially, are something that should be handed down with care. I came to RPI having used a computer to 1) write a story that was maybe 10 pages; 2) make my portfolio for applying to architecture schools; and 3) apply to RPI and start applications for other colleges that I never had to finish. Three years later, I can kind of figure out where to find the EcoLogic wiki php file, move a site or page, and a few other basic skills that are incredibly useful when it comes to keeping club websites updated. It would have been helpful to have had that information handed down to me … except, of course, the presidents before me didn’t have it handed down to them, either. I’ve figured out how to do enough and I want to make sure those that come after me know how to do that bare minimum.

Another portion of my club officer philosophy is to promote community. Why am I in the Poly office right now and expecting to remain there until late at night? Because we’re a community, a team. These are cool people, and I’m having fun. I know I wouldn’t be doing schoolwork now, anyways—why not go to some club meetings and meet awesome people and learn valuable skills? Writing well and being versed in different styles is likely to get my research proposals accepted. InDesign will be very useful for some of the jobs I might have during my life.

To promote that community, I see my officers—and my members—for clubs I’m in charge of as a team. Everyone in EcoLogic and SSTF has the same goal. We are all friends working on that goal, but we are also an open group of friends that is excited to welcome new members. We’re all people who love each other and look forward to meeting each week. The Poly is the same way, though I am not in charge. Every club that I’ve joined and stayed in has been similar; there are people I can at least sort of relate to and enjoy speaking with. I love hearing different viewpoints and meeting people from diverse backgrounds. To me, the people and their experiences are what makes clubs so useful. It is difficult to cultivate community in clubs, but it is as important to me as the projects and events—the community is what will keep people coming back; the productivity is what will make people feel useful.