RSE Alumni Advisory Committee is Up and Running. Thank You for Your Input!
Current Situation – RSE and fraternity life at RPI is at a crossroads. The environment that most of us are familiar with at RPI and RSE no longer exists. 28% of the 29 Greek organizations at RPI are currently on long term suspension. Even though undergraduate admissions at RPI is up 39% from the 1980’s when I was at RPI, participation in Greek life is down 60% with only 14% of the undergraduate students members of fraternities and sororities. Surveys of RPI students show that students are much more interested in the “Return on Investment” of their education and participation in activities while in college. The situation at RPI, the fact that social opinions of fraternities in the US are not favorable, and the high risk environment of having 18-22 year old men living in an unsupervised environment have created an unsustainable “business model” for RSE.
Alumni Advisory Committee – This has been a wakeup call for us to act now to create a sustainable RSE for next 150 years. RSE’s current suspension ends in the Fall in 2021 and we need to be ready for what is next. This is why the Trustees embarked on the “Future of RSE” initiative and formed the RSE Alumni Advisory Committee (AAC). The purpose of the AAC is to gain input from the Alumni and develop a vision and plan for the Future of RSE. I want to personally thank the alumni for the response to this initiative. The AAC has been established and has been working hard. The AAC has 28 volunteers ranging from the classes of 1960s through 2020.
Alumni Survey – The first task of the AAC was to review the survey results. The response to the survey was amazing. We sent the survey out to the approximately 600 Alumni for whom we have email addresses. We received back 262 responses, an impressive 44% response rate on an 80-question survey. This is an excellent response and shows the engagement and affiliation many of us have with RSE. Thank you to all that took the time to provide your input. In general, the feedback showed a strong connection by Alumni with RSE and the value of RSE to their RPI experience. The social aspect of RSE and the relationships that they made were an important part of the experience. The fact that through the decades, RSE maintained a well-rounded and diverse membership was important as well as the fact that RSE is an independent organization free from the meddling of a national organization.
The survey also showed that there was a realization that the good old days are gone, and we can’t go back to the 1970’s. We need to do something that addresses the current environment and create a RSE organization that is positioned for the future. The Alumni recognized that academics and professional development should have been more of a focus during their time at RSE and that is also much more important to current students. Alumni also noted that they would like to shift the organization to better support the needs of the students in this area through Alumni involvement. There were many references to increased Alumni support/interaction with the Society in general and the Junior Members with suggestions of programs such as “mentor programs”, “cross generational programs”, “career guidance”, and “corporate training” which would be selling points to offer the undergrads for recruiting Members. There was strong sentiment that a focus like this would set us apart from other options for students, assuming we can get our Alumni to really buy in.
A Refocused RSE – Based on this feedback, the AAC then set about identifying potential future states for RSE. We explored 8 different possible future states. All of these options had common themes that centered around refocusing RSE on our founding principles from 150 years ago. These included creating a student-run, supportive environment to develop RPI students into well-rounded, academically, professionally and personally successful future technology leaders. The AAC identified several potential theme areas to enable student success: 1. Professional development; 2. Entrepreneurship; and 3. Technology solutions to environmental sustainability. The key ingredients of the new RSE would need to include strong collaboration with RPI administration and faculty, active engagement of Alumni, both RSE and non-RSE, and using the RSE facility as a campus focal point for a diverse mix of live-in and live-out students.
Where do we go from here? – The AAC is currently working on fleshing out the plan with more of the details. This will include research with external stakeholders such as students, the administration and faculty, as well as external organizations that share similar goals as the new RSE. There is still a lot of work to do to fully develop an executable plan and a timetable that will allow us to transition from our current status to the RSE of the future.
The current plan is to hold a virtual RSE Retreat on Saturday November 14th to review the plan and obtain feedback from the Alumni. The AAC would use this input to finalize the plan and present it for approval at the RSE Society Meeting in the Spring of 2021. Information can be found on the RSE.org website or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get involved – Alumni engagement is essential to the success of RSE and its future. We encourage you to participate, read the preparation materials we send out, come to the virtual retreat, and provide your thoughts. Any transition to a sustainable future for RSE will require lots of support from the Alumni, both in time and money. We have a chance to restructure RSE to make its legacy durable and set it up for success for the next 150 years.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
Thy Strength is My Strength
Don Thoma ‘83
Chair, Alumni Advisory Committee