University holds 250th charter reenactment
Bedecked in powdered wigs and historic garbs clad in Rutgers scarlet, alumni and students alike gathered to celebrate Rutgers' 250th anniversary.
The event hosted a reenactment of the Rutgers charter signing where participants could don revolutionary-era garb and be photographed signing the charter.
Sponsored by the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA) and the Scarlet Council, the student leadership arm of the RUAA, this event sought to create a space where Rutgers students and alumni could interact in a social environment.
“I thought (photo reenactment) was a unique opportunity,” said Tara Massey-Kissenberth, assistant director at the Office of Alumni Relations, advisor to the Scarlet Council and an alumna of the Douglass College Class of 2004. “It’s a great way to put students and alumni together in a really social fun way that also celebrates the history of the University.”
In addition to the day’s historic photo-reenactment RUAA and the Scarlet Council also hosted a contemporary version of the charter signing, said Yvette Martinez, senior director of Alumni Relations at RUAA.
“It has become a priority for us to make sure that the student experience is something that’s meaningful,” Martinez said. ”We know that connecting students and alumni is probably the most meaningful part ... (of) staying connected to Rutgers.”
Alumni want to maintain a connection with Rutgers after they graduate, Martinez said. Likewise, students are interested in networking with alumni.
The Scarlet Council has sought to establish themselves as the organization that brings alumni and students together.
“We’re working towards creating involvement and engagement long after students graduate,” said Samantha Mohr, vice president of events for the Scarlet Council and a Rutgers Business School junior.
Founded in the fall of last year, the Scarlet Council is a young and relatively small organization.
“They started last year with only six members and there are 14 this year,” Kissenberth said.
In order to bridge the gap between students and alumni, the Scarlet Council attempts to inspire student engagement with alumni prior to graduation.
“We’re only here 4 years ... as (students) and hopefully we stay connected to the University in other ways after we graduate,” Kissenberth said. “Our group is designed to try and find programming that inspires students to start thinking (staying connected) way before they leave.”
The event itself was in celebration of Rutgers' 250th anniversary.
“I think the 250th is a really good opportunity to celebrate our school,” said Lauren McGowan, vice president of external relations for the Scarlet Council and a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “I think it’s also a good chance to reflect back on (the fact) that our institution and our University is not perfect.”
Kissenberth hopes that the celebration of the University’s 250th anniversary will prompt an annual celebration of the University’s founding.
“We are one of the founding institutions of higher education, which is a really important thing we should be proud of and want to celebrate,” Kissenberth said.
Rutgers’ 250th anniversary also held significance for the alumni.
“As an alumni myself, its exciting to be part of the RUAA because I now also get to experience as a staff member all the many ways in that I can be home again to my alma mater and to be here in this revolutionary year it's inspiring to know all the institution has done," Martinez said.
Rutgers has made progress since its founding and intends to celebrate that progress.
Citing huge bounds made in both diversity and sheer size, Kissenberth expressed pride in the progress Rutgers has made.
"The makeup of the Rutgers campuses, the technology, the attire and the structural differences of our campus relations have changed," Kissenberth said. "It's a fun way to look and compare the Rutgers of the past with the Rutgers of today and celebrate that change and evolution that have occurred over the last 250 years."
Two-hundred and fifty years is a long time, especially when only four years can make a significant change in someone’s life, he said.
“This University has really changed my life for the better,” Mohr said. “I call Rutgers my home. I would rather be here than be at home, so this 250th birthday means a lot to me because without this University I don’t really know where I’d be.”