I’ll begin with the same phrase you’ll probably hear 200 times over the next few weeks: welcome to Rensselaer! I am Paul Ilori ’17, the 151st Grand Marshal and wearer of headwear that was more fashionable when the Class of 1917 were seniors. The position was created in 1866 to honor Albert Harper, a student from Pittsburgh, PA who returned to graduate after fighting in the Civil War. Over the past century and a half, the role has transformed and has undertaken different roles and symbols. Currently, as GM, I serve as the presiding officer of the Student Senate and an officer of the Rensselaer Union, one of few truly student-run student unions in the United States. Our Union gives us the opportunity to explore ourselves outside the classroom and allows students to explore a wide range of interests, along with providing us with a direct voice in decisions made at RPI as a whole. Our school holds a unique place in history as the oldest technical university in the English-speaking world. But with all the information you’re having thrown at you right now, that’s enough history.
You can stop reading here if you promise to keep an open mind and stay true to yourself. You’re already being given a lot of information, some of it useful and some not so much. While your first priority should always be keeping on top of your classes, I’d advise you to check out different things and see what you like and don’t like for yourself. Meet the Greeks, the Activities Fair, hockey games, and other events throughout the year will allow you not only to get to know your new classmates better, but also give you an opportunity to explore yourself. Some of my favorite memories on campus have come from my deciding to check out something I thought sounded kind of interesting, or a text from some of my friends asking if I was free to go check out some event.
Clearly, every club, elective class, or opportunity won’t be for everyone, but you’ll never know if you don’t at least go check it out. So grab a few friends and go! Sign up for that email list for a club you’re kind of interested in (yes, you actually can unsubscribe from all of them), check out BBQ/steak/insert random food rush event here, and stick with what you like. You never really know where you might find a passion that you stick with for the rest of your life. Feel free to say hi to me if you see me around campus, or contact me at email@example.com if there’s anything you think I can help you with.