7th annual Rutgers Day breaks attendance record
A record-setting total of more than 91,000 students, faculty and community members alike gathered at Rutgers–New Brunswick to celebrate Rutgers Day, a collection of more than 500 academic organizations, social activities and community programs.
Rutgers Day 2015 was a one-day experience showcasing the University’s historic colonial roots as well as its more contemporary offerings by connecting visitors, students and alumni, according to the official Rutgers Day program.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, masses of New Jersey locals and out-of-state visitors gathered on the College Avenue, Busch, Cook and Douglass campuses.
With the chance to showcase individual majors, clubs and academic programs, many booths aimed to educate prospective students, along with college first-year students who might not be aware of the University’s offerings.
The event is important because it enables different departments within the University to collaborate and connect in unprecedented ways, said Randi Chmielewski, coordinator for Public Programs and Special Projects at the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with students and also to connect with members of the general public,” Chmielewski said. “(We need) to make sure that everyone is aware of all the fantastic programming available.”
The day of programming was targeted to people of all ages — a mix of University students, children and their families, said Taylor Palm, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) junior.
“It’s such a big event,” Palm said. “It’s advertised all over the state and provides great community involvement for the University and the general public.”
For the SEBS Governing Council, Rutgers Day was an important way to connect with community members and raise awareness of their role as delegates for the greater good of the University, said Kaitlyn Mazzilli, a Public Health Representative for the SEBS Governing Council.
“I think it’s just really great to get everybody out and to get everybody to see what exactly is going on and all the clubs,” Mazzilli said. “It’s nice to see that there is a group that is working towards what’s going on with the (University) and caring about the students.”
Alongside Rutgers Day, the 41st annual New Jersey Folk Festival, sponsored by the Department of American Studies, included live music and more than 100 vendors selling ethnic food and an array of handmade crafts on Douglass campus.
In addition these festivities, this year’s Rutgers Day marked the first where it coincided with Alumni Weekend and the 50th anniversary of the Rutgers Class of 1965 graduating class.
Kelly D’Amico, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, said Rutgers Day is her favorite day of the year at the University.
“You get a bunch of alumni and people from the surrounding towns, and everyone comes (together) and encapsulates what Rutgers has to offer,” D’Amico said.
On the Busch campus, attendees were invited to explore science, technology and health fields through interactive games, demonstrations and giveaways.
Diana Mayorga, a School of Engineering junior, said she worked with fellow students to create an interactive tent to promote both the Packaging Engineering concentration and Rutgers Packaging Engineering Society.
Mayorga’s booth hosted three activities — pack it, box it and match it, she said. This allowed children and adults to experiment with packing products and matching pantone colors to packages to win prizes.
“We’ve had around 3,000 people participating in our activities today which is great, because it exposes our field to the whole community,” she said. “(This is) especially (for) high schoolers and college freshmen who are still deciding on a major to pursue.”
Considering how they are the only packaging engineering major in the nation, Mayorga said many sponsors, such as Pepsi, Pantone and Kraft, came forward to create a raffle giveaway of products that attracted many families.
Among the showcased engineering clubs were technology organizations that created demonstrations to highlight new electronic products and share technology trivia through interactive games.
Manisha Medidi, treasurer of Women in Information Technology, said her table, aimed to educate children and attract prospective Information Technology and Informatics majors.
Representatives from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School also hosted a table with other healthcare organizations on campus catering to young children, teaching DNA, surgery, dental hygiene and personal health through hands-on demonstrations with edible crafts.
On the College Avenue campus, alumni, faculty and students marched in a parade to showcase the history and traditions of the University to the surrounding community.
Among crowd members was the popular John and Debbie’s Concession stand, a long-time vendor for Rutgers Day selling funnel cakes, fried Oreos, cotton candy and lemonade.
Krystal Okolichany, owner of the booth, said although attendance continues to grow every year, this year seemed to invite more children than years past.
“For me, Rutgers Day provides me with an income,” she said. “It also opens up many different windows for families and students to learn about the different activities at this large University.”
One of the most popular demonstrations was a bike-powered waterfall near Scott Hall that invited children to use the machine and understand how it works firsthand, said Aimee Jefferson, shop manager for the Puerto Rican Action Board.
The demonstration was a part of the New Brunswick Bike Exchange, a program that takes in used bikes, fixes them and resells to community members, with profits going to the Puerto Rican Action Board.
“With our demonstration, we wanted to attract children and families to see how powerful bikes can be and educate them about recycling and energy conservation,” Jefferson said.
Although it was her first time attending Rutgers Day, Jefferson said she was grateful to have exposure among those who wanted to contribute to the community but did not know about the different programs available.
With a focus on humanities and social sciences, the College Avenue campus held booths for University libraries, study abroad programs and language majors.
Among those in attendance was the Department of Philosophy, which hosted “Philosophy Café,” a tent that held books written by professors in the department, logic-oriented quizzes, lemonade and chess games.
One of the largest demonstrations was in front of Murray Hall, where the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) held a clothesline project with more than 400 shirts.
Created by University students and employees who were survivors of violence or in memory of those that were, the project gave survivors a voice and creative means of expressing their struggles, said Brady Root, Prevention Education Coordinator at VPVA.
Although it was VPVA’s first time hosting a table at Rutgers Day, the project successfully gathered a large crowd of individuals who either silently read the shirts strung across the lawn or asked questions about the office and its many programs, Root said.
Mary George, an incoming first-year student planning to be a pre-medicine student, said Rutgers Day was a great opportunity for her to learn more about on-campus activities and the programs she could join in the fall.
“I think it’s a great way for students like me to explore the environment and campus life before we arrive next year,” she said.