Rs of Gold. In 1988, Alumni Relations created Students Together In Networking Graduates (STING) to address student retention and spirit that was more “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” than “My Own and Only Love.” Twenty years after its establishment, it was time to reexamine STING’s purpose. In 2009, Alumni Relations developed a program that more closely aligned with its philosophy and strategy: the Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAAs). STING was gone, but not forgotten.
Don’t call it a comeback. A reincarnation of STING made up of 30 to 35 undergraduates, the SAA program serves as a bridge between current undergraduates and alumni, while fostering students’ pride in Rochester and their interest in staying connected and giving back. Although it would be great if SAAs could get alumni and fellow classmates to trade Uptown Funk for The Genesee, their purpose is really to inspire future alumni leaders and donors.
UR lovefools. SAAs can be easily identified by their uniforms: the spirit R cardigans. But it’s what’s underneath their Meliora duds that make them who they are. SAAs are the kind of students who when they say they bleed blue and gold, there’s some concern they may try to prove it. They are exceptionally positive and enthusiastic; they are eager to meet new people to expand their personal and professional networks; and they have a solid grasp of the University’s history, mission, and current initiatives. They are quite literally our poster children.
R is for veRsatile. There is little that Advancement could ask SAAs to do that they are not already doing. Need a student presence for a general campus, local, or regional event or how about a presidential or George Eastman Circle event? SAAs do that. Need a campus tour for a prospective donor or new Advancement staff member? Follow the cardigan, sir or madam. Do you want to thank a donor or volunteer with a call, card, or video, or perhaps a current student’s perspective on the University? S. A. As.
Yaas, SAAs. There are countless glowing anecdotes from prospective families, alumni, and volunteers that prove the SAA program is an invaluable contributor to the Advancement mission. But for a sense of hard value, in labor hours, their service is worth an average of more than $17,000 a year. Better still is the program’s effect on SAA members. Compared to their peers, SAA members have proven to be far more likely to give to their senior class gift campaign, continue giving after graduation, and become a member of the George Eastman Circle. And many also continue to serve as alumni volunteers.
Spreading the love. In 2013, the Offices of Alumni Relations, Annual Giving, and Stewardship launched a “Valentine’s Day” for the University called “I Heart Rochester Day.” During Spirit Week—the beginning of the spring semester—undergraduates write notes to thank first-time donors for being the gasoline to their burnin’ love for Rochester. A similar fall tradition, “UR Home,” encourages students to write notes in the spirit of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to be shared in donors’ Meliora Weekend registration packets.
TAGsgiving. Mel Liora ’19 could run through and out of the Rush Rhees Library, high-five the Eastman statue and Gene Kelly around a lamp post, on his way to Todd Union, not knowing he passed more than 100 donor-supported objects. But not on Thank A Giver (TAG) Day. Launched in April 2015, TAG Day physically tags those lamp posts, spaces, buildings, and more to highlight what donors have done for the University and give students like Mel a chance to say thank you.
24 hours of contributing. There is no making the world “ever better” without the support of the University community—teamwork makes the dream work! A University that gives together grows together! Enter Day of Giving. Also launched in April 2015, Day of Giving encourages Rochester’s alumni, parents, faculty, staff, parents, and friends to make a gift of any size to anywhere at the University. Support is further shown on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #URMakingADifference. Adding #EverythingIsAWESOME is optional.
“For he’s our greatest benefactor…” On July 12, 1854 in Waterville, N.Y., Maria and George Washington Eastman had the most important Kodak moment—their son, George, was born. Every year, George’s birthday is celebrated by the University’s young alumni across the country. Members of the Young Alumni Council, and other volunteers, organize and host happy hours, allowing recently graduated members of the University community to get together and raise a glass to ol’ papa Eastman, a jolly generous fellow, which nobody can deny.
Smells like ’Jacket spirit. Where do University students go after graduation? “Where’s Rocky?” helps provide the answer. For anyone who has ever been tormented by the infuriating chaos and red herrings that hide Waldo, this is not a question to be feared. University mascot Rocky the yellowjacket simply poses—in card stock form—with students and alumni around the world. And for the alumni who found love as students, or later in life, they can add some Meliora to their wedding day with a UR pennant.
Indiana Stones. Henry A. Ward was professor of natural sciences at the University from 1861 to 1875. He was also a fearless rock hound whose travels around the world enabled him to amass a collection of about 40,000 geological specimens. His aunt assumed his adventures would end with him being eaten by cannibals, falling into a volcano, or being killed by some other danger. None of those happened, but he did contract smallpox, which he promptly bull whipped in the face and kept on collecting. His actual death was fairly pedestrian—a car accident in 1906; he was 72.
Graveboulder? Devastated by the death of his sister, T.T. Swinburne, Class of 1892, committed suicide by jumping into the Genesee River in 1926. Years later, someone probably said, “Hey, you know that 26-ton boulder, near Irondequoit Bay? Wouldn’t that make a great memorial for T.T.?” Rumors that Swinburne’s ashes were buried beneath the boulder—now resting near Interfaith Chapel—were proved to be “boulderdash.” In 1932, Herman L. Fairchild, professor of geology and natural history at the University from 1888 to 1920, waxed geologic about the giant rock’s composition.
Do-lo-mite! Around 400 million years ago, the Rochester area was covered by a warm, shallow sea that was responsible for the formation of the extensive rock unit known as the Lockport dolomite. So what? So, according to Lawrence Lundgren, professor emeritus of geology, the boulders outside of Susan B. Anthony Residence Halls are more or less Lockport nuggets plucked from the bedrock when an ice sheet retreated from the area 10,000 years ago. Some Lundgrens are more appreciative of “rocky” issues than others.
Million-Year-Old Baby. Restored at the University of Rochester… Put on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington… From the Middle Silurian period… belonging to the genus Arctinurus… Measuring at six-and-one-half inches and approximately 425 million years old… one of the best preserved ancient arthropod fossils in the wor-r-r-l-l-l-l-d… I-I-I-I-It’s a trilobite! Recovered by an amateur fossil hunter in York, N.Y., the trilobite spent 100 hours in restoration at the University, led by Gerry Kloc, a lab technician in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Meteormaggedon. There have been five times in the last 500 million years where Earth was the worst place to be. University geologists have contributed to evidence that two of those times Earth was the recipient of an interstellar “bonzai drop” from a massive meteor. The more merciful of the two wiped out the dinosaurs (65 million years ago); the other (185 million years earlier) is known as “The Great Dying.” The second meteor killed 90 to 96 percent of all species. Thanks to Michael Bay, we’re ready for the next one.
First-year fire. A “quad of fire” might sound like a part of a horrifying hellscape, but it’s just part of the University’s annual Candlelight Ceremony. Since 2008, incoming freshmen have surrounded the Eastman Quad with lit candles to learn about the University’s traditions, iconic symbols, and history. And a “fiery furnace” might sound like something from “The Burbs,” but it’s just a metaphor University Dean Paul Burgett ’68E, ’72E (MA), ’76E (PhD) has used for more than 30 years to inspire new classes of students.
The collegiate arts. Somewhere in the ethereal plane, Francis Scott Key is consoling T.T. Swinburne, Class of 1892. Like Key’s anthem for the U.S., only part of Swinburne’s original song for his alma mater is used today. The University only sings the first and third verse of “The Genesee.” In regard to the visual arts, many of the University’s painters can be found underground. Students have been painting the tunnels under the Eastman Quad since 1970. Today, most of the artwork is done to raise awareness for special events or causes.
There is a season, party, party, party. “It’s the [anything] of the school year! Let’s party!” Traditionally, this seems to be the attitude at the University. The school year kicks off with Yellowjacket Weekend. Then there’s homecoming: Meliora Weekend. Since 1934, December has been the time to celebrate boars choking on Aristotle. And more than 60 years ago, the University’s celebration for the end of classes looked a lot like the end of the movie “Grease.” Today, Dandelion Day features activities like live bands, paintball, and rock-climbing walls.
Like benefactor, like student. Joseph C. Wilson ’31 and George Eastman are the unofficial captains of the University of Rochester’s All-Time Super Engaged Rochester Volunteers Interested in Community Enrichment (SERVICE) All-Stars. Everyone knows that. It’s why every year students participate in Wilson Day and the George Eastman Day of Service—both are part of undergraduate orientation. Rooted in their respective namesake’s civic spirit, each day gives students the opportunity to engage in community improvement and outreach projects.
Burying “burying calc” and others. Like the calculus books that were ceremoniously destroyed and buried out of consuming hatred, several University traditions have been put to rest. Among these bygone customs are riding down the hill of Susan B. Anthony Halls on a lunch tray and a brutal contest—similar to capture the flag—that involved a greased pole and the use of rotten eggs and manure as weapons. And there was even a time where yelling “Eighty-fi-yi-ki-yi-zip-boom-Ro-che-ster” was totally normal.
Not-so-Brief History of Data. According to IBM, we are now creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day—90% of the world’s data was created as recently as two years ago. That means the only thing we have more of than data is stars. This ridiculous amount of information is known as “big data.” Data science comprises the concepts, methods, and applications we use to slog through it all and extract something meaningful, like millions of Stephen Hawkings creating constellations.
Better living through data science. Do you use Google? Data science. Check the weather? Data science. There’s a reason Netflix is recommending that you watch “Mac and Me.” Data science told it to. Data science is everywhere, and it’s helping us analyze information in a way that the microscope helped early researchers view tissues and organisms. Current University research is using data science to help us understand political campaigns, track the spread of disease and identify at-risk individuals, and improve decision-making.
Ever better than everyone. When it comes to data science, we’re no slouches. Over the past five years, we have invested more than $50 million for faculty, staff, and a computing infrastructure. But our motto isn’t “Meh” it’s Meh-liora. So that’s why the Data Science Initiative seeks to create a $50 million endowment, which will be used primarily for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art building, as well as the recruitment of 20 outstanding faculty members.
Our data base. Our data science HQ, the Institute for Data Science, will be a 50,000 gross-square-foot addition to the River Campus, adjacent to Hopeman Hall, which allows us to assemble our existing strengths in data science together, under one roof. It also completes a science and engineering quad, shaped by Hutchison Hall, Goergen Hall, Carlson Library, and the Computer Studies building. Researchers within the Institute will initially focus on predictive health analytics, cognitive systems, and analytics on demand.
Our wish list. The new building is expected to use approximately half of the endowment we seek. Beyond that, over time, we would like to support 20 new faculty members with professorships. We would also like funding for The Center for Energy and the Environment, a directorship (see, professorships) for the Institute, and research funds. We logged all of this on Amazon.com (which, by the way, is powered by data science).