Four-year journey to the top

From humble beginnings as a Senate committee leader, Ilori is proud for reaching the pinnacle of student power

The question I’ve been asked the most over the past few months has been some version of “what is it like to be Grand Marshal?” and “what do you dislike or like most about the role?” I normally throw out some pithy response: the main difference for me is that I have more meetings and get asked the same questions a lot. I don’t like wearing a top hat because it’s not exactly casual apparel. But if I sit down and think about it more, I can find more substantial answers.

Despite being in Senate for three years, becoming GM has been a huge adjustment. Going from being in charge of one committee working on three or four projects, to overseeing six or seven, depending on how many ad hoc committees we have active, working on three apiece is a totally new role. Now add interfacing with administrators, lining up schedules for meetings between members of Senate leadership, students with project ideas, and classes. My friends joke that I’m addicted to creating new GroupMe’s and sending out whenisgoods. So I guess being GM is spending a year trying to learn how to keep the big picture in mind while also staying focused on details and important aspects of things.

I genuinely really don’t like wearing the top hat. My friends steal it, it’s a hassle getting into cars, and it really doesn’t go with any of my shorts or sneakers. But in all seriousness, it’s not that bad. My least favorite part of being Grand Marshal is when I feel like I’m not actually able to do my job. Whether it’s me not being organized with agendas for a meeting, not being able to help someone take a project idea to fruition, or just not having an answer to a question I think I should be able to help with, I feel like I should always be able to do something to help, which isn’t always possible, and can be hard to accept.

And my favorite thing? As Eliza says in the song “Non-Stop” from Hamilton, “Look at where you are, look at where you started.” I’ve seen a lot of things and have come a long way since I joined Student Senate. I’ve been part of a group that has changed Institute policy and affected daily lives of students in a good way. I’ve seen the student body react passionately about what we care about, whether about changes we feel would damage the Rensselaer Union last year or misconceptions about how we perform our own processes and regulate ourselves my sophomore year. I’ve been able to, or sometimes had to, ask or answer hard questions across a table from someone two or three times my age. I’ve gotten to see random kids I didn’t even know grow into friends, and individuals who when I’ve needed to write recommendation letters for awards or honor societies on their behalves, they pretty much write themselves. And apparently I’ve managed to grow up a bit while I’m at it. It’s been funny talking to people who have known me for the past few years as they comment on how much I’ve changed and grown into being at least somewhat ready for the role I have. So overall, what I like the most is just being involved in transformations.