Between the NSBE/SHPE Career Fair last weekend, and Alumni Weekend/Homecoming this weekend, there have been way more alumni around recently than normally, which is a pretty good thing overall. A lot of the most interesting things I’ve learned about RPI and its history, ranging from my favorite useless trivia fact about the basement of the Union technically being a bomb shelter to explanations of why certain policies and structures are the way they are, have come from random conversations with alumni. Who I’m probably going to just call alums for the rest of this, because I’m really not bothered to remember how to conjugate Latin properly.
The extended Rensselaer family is as much a unique, diverse, and welcoming group of people as the current student body is. I remember, before I even started school here, the first welcome I got was from some friends of friends. While I was in North Carolina visiting family friends, they introduced me to the Ducostes, a couple who had both graduated from RPI. They welcomed me, told me a lot of different stories about their time at the ‘Tute, and some of what I could expect when I got here. And of course, I got the trademark RPI equation hoodie, which I still have as a gift from them a few weeks later after they got my mailing address from my mom. Being a student who had never met someone before who’d attended RPI, it made my family and me feel way more comfortable about where I would be spending the next few years, knowing more about it and the people it produces.
Despite what people say about the negativity of RPI or how focused we all are on academics, I feel like that only tells half of the story. RPI is also a place that forms a community and sense of belonging for those who spend part of our young adult lives here. You see it in the different clubs, fraternities, sororities, and groups that exist on campus. It’s present when a group of six kids who have never talked to each other get thrown together for some group project and end up coming together to not only make a team and a final product, but to also become friends; it’s the reason why, when issues arise relating to changing the elements of the school we all love, like the Rensselaer Union, you see such a strong outpouring of passion en masse, from people who graduated five months ago or 50 years ago. As the center and focal point of aspects of the student experience, the Union—physically as a place and metaphorically as a symbol—represents a big part of our time here.
So I guess what I’m trying to say here is you should try starting a conversation with the alumni who will be around over the upcoming weekend. Though you may think you don’t know them, in a lot of ways you already do.