Grand Marshal says farewell

Hello Rensselaer. This is my final Top Hat as the 149th Grand Marshal. GM Week is here, and with it, a rush of bittersweet emotion as we review all that we’ve been able to do this past year. In my final public address through The Polytechnic, I would like to review this past year, thank everyone who has played a part in our efforts and many successes, and leave my last advice toward the future of student leadership.

I ran for Grand Marshal on a promise for a stronger student voice. As many of you may recall, of course, my goal was not to become that voice, but rather to grow it. It was, and is, my mission to nurture it within our community and to work with all necessary stakeholders to tackle the greatest student issues.

In the year since my election, I believe that we have met resounding success. The 45th Senate restored students’ role in the physical campus through the work of the Facilities and Services and Student Life Committees. We have bridged the gap to Sodexo and given students a place at the table through our Hospitality Services Committee. Most importantly, Erin Amarello ’15 and I leave office thankful to now have the chance to work with our successors to regular meetings between student leadership and the president of the Institute. I want to thank the Office of the President and all other administrators who have been so open to working with us this year.

But I also want to honor the many students who have poured their spare hours into our work, in the belief and determination that student leadership can be a positive, collaborative force for change on the Rensselaer campus. Approximately 120 students were involved with the Senate’s committees this year—as opposed to last year’s 40—representing a growth in membership and overall passion for the Senate’s work. With this growth has come productivity, tangible successes, and multiple steps forward.

SLC, led by Lexi Rindone ’15, has implemented a popular van service, secured requests for proposals for an on-campus pharmacy, and detailed recommendations for our residence halls. These recommendations were adopted by administration as a guiding document for hall renovations for the next four summers. FSC, led by Michael Han ’16, has secured funding for picnic tables so that students may enjoy their campus during warmer months. FSC has secured a pilot sustainable software program that will lead to establishing a green revolving fund on the RPI Campus, promoting further sustainability efforts, and has begun work towards a new meal plan approach that will maximize flexibility. Academic Affairs Committee, led by Marcus Flowers ’16, has secured a Faculty Senate endorsement for their syllabi collection website, and a Student Senate endorsement for development of a Rensselaer Research Index, an online site allowing students to connect to past and present research opportunities. Finally, through an amazing relationship with Rochester Institute Technology, collaboration with the Web Technologies Group and Rules and Elections Committee, and input from several students and administrators, we have launched RPI Petitions, my promised method for students to initiate their own projects and have their voices heard by the Senate.

These are just some of the many accomplishments of the 45th Student Senate—things that could never have been reached without the many students involved, from commenters on social media, to committee members, to the passionate elected senators and appointed chairs who have put their hearts into their work. Student leadership is strong on the RPI campus, and through our work with students, community members, and administrators alike, we have created a stronger student voice.

This work does not end here, however. There is much to do, much to accomplish, and student leadership will always be growing. Our short-term goals, including increased transparency for the Senate’s efforts, and building more trust among students and administrators alike for student government, have been very successful yet leave a great deal of room to grow. The next Senate must focus on centralizing its communication on the student government website, promoting additional in-person communication, and learning to harness RPI Petitions’ potential. Furthermore, as our committees continue to grow, establishing them as standing organizations should be a top priority: I want to see a place for each project-based committee at the Activities Fair to expand recruiting efforts, and an emphasis on stronger branding to encourage their growth in potential and campus profile.

Similarly, each long-term project has made great progress, but requires a strong hand and follow-through to reach success and maximize its benefit to students. Maintaining a focus on these efforts, from our syllabi collection, to our pharmacy project, to meal plans, and food quality overall, will be essential next year. Moreover, due to our restored connection with the president of the Institute, student government was encouraged to develop a proposal for pilot programs that will allow us to begin once again expanding residence hall access while preserving campus safety. The next Senate administration should prioritize this project in continued work with the Division of Administration as they see this through.

This Top Hat will be the final in my tenure as Grand Marshal at RPI, so I would like to close with a few last words of advice for our student leaders to come. Throughout your terms—whether you be a Grand Marshal, President of the Union, Club Leader, fraternity or sorority president, or a leader in any other form, take pride in what you do. Focus on your goals, stand for what you believe and never lose sight of what is right. Let that genuine passion and strength shine through in your time here; go beyond learning the great things others have done, and begin to embrace the great things you can do yourself. Do this, and you will meet success for years to come.

Thank you again to everyone who has played a role in this term. To students, faculty, staff, and administrators, thank you for the trust you placed in me to hear your concerns and ideas, and to work collaboratively towards a brighter future. To the Rensselaer Board of Trustees and to Dr. Jackson in particular, meeting you in person has been a distinct pleasure; thank you for listening to our concerns and ideas. To my colleagues in the Student Senate and student government as a whole, thank you for all of your passion and hard work that made this year a resounding success: We have built a stronger student voice together. To Michael Zwack ’11, Chuck Carletta ’14, Kevin Dai ’14, and the other Grand Marshals who have lent their advice and wisdom along the way, thank you for your investment in the success of our Union. To all student leaders and to my eventual successor: know, you’ll always have a friendly face here to help when I can. Finally, to my friends and family, and to my newfound brothers in Delta Phi, thank you all for always being there and giving me your support and loving advice.

This has truly been an experience for a lifetime, and it has been amazing to work with you all; have a great GM Week, and good luck!