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Impressive Growth
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Twenty years ago there were only about 60 funded clubs on the Rensselaer campus, according to Hartt, who’s been a Rensselaer staff member for nearly 30 years. Today there are clubs for practically every hobby and interest including: intramural sports clubs ranging from Table Tennis and Water Polo to Ultimate Frisbee and Fencing; cultural clubs like the Black Student Alliance, Alianza Latina, and Hindu Students Association; extracurricular clubs such as the Astrophysical Society, Game Development Club, and Model Railroad Society; performing and visual arts organizations including Dance Club, Jazz Ensemble, and the Drama Club; media organizations such as the student-run newspaper and television station, The Polytechnic and RPI-TV; and service organizations like the RPI Ambulance and Habitat for Humanity.

“The student population, by its very nature, has demanded change, and I think the club growth over the last few years has been reflective of that,” says Hartt. “The Student Senate and the Executive Board have really encouraged students to try out different things, to find things that fit, and to start new things when there are voids.”

If they can’t find an offering attractive to them, as few as two students with the same interest could potentially start their own club by following a defined process put in place by the President of the Union and the Executive Board.

“The students are first required to hold an organizational meeting to get a sense of how much interest there is in their club,” says Fisher. “If there is demonstrated interest, they are asked to put together a purpose that outlines goals the club intends to follow in the course of its activities. This document gets reviewed by the Constitution Committee before it is submitted along with a starter constitution to the Executive Board for approval.”

If the Executive Board approves, the club is then officially recognized by the Union and has three years to prepare a permanent constitution.

McLean says some years as many as 15 new clubs have been approved.

This March, Stephen Roberts ’08 started STRIDE, a fitness club that promotes training of all forms based on the interest of participants. The club already boasts 50 members.

“I love training, so my goal for this club was to inspire people on campus to get in shape by giving them a place where they feel welcome and happy,” says Roberts, who also participates in intramural ice hockey, gym hockey, softball, and the Arnold Air Society. “The best part of the club is meeting new people that have the same goals and interests.”

Alex Brownell ’08 and Erin Ruitenberg ’08 also recently started a club called SECOND (Supporting Engineers and Creators of the Next Decade), an extension of the students’ participation in the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE) LEGO® Robotics Engineering Academy last summer.

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Hammer and Saw
“We enjoyed teaching LEGO robotics to middle school students and noticed that it was a great way to get them excited about engineering,” says Ruitenberg, who’s already recruited 20 members. “We wanted to develop an effective way for RPI students to use their talents in math and science to interact with younger students in fun ways that would get them excited about engineering. Our long-term goal is to develop a network of local elementary, middle, and high school teachers and create a large pool of club members who can volunteer to participate in school events such as science fairs and mentor in after-school programs.”

Hartt says that while clubs typically have around 20 members, some groups have only a handful of participants, while others have close to 200 members. He cites the Rensselaer Bengali Association and Capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts group, as examples of clubs that amassed new members quickly thanks to outreach programs and events open to the campus community that interested members of the audience.

“The Bengali Association probably started with about 10 students, and in two years they’ve recruited nearly 100 students. Capoeira was started with half a dozen students about four years ago, and when they recently held their annual gala dinner there were probably about 150 people in attendance,” Hartt says. “Both of these groups exemplify the core of the student-run club system. If the students work hard, they can build a successful club and host successful, well-attended events.”

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.