With over 240 clubs, organizations and activities on campus, RIT students have many ways to fill their time. But despite all that, students will undoubtedly find other ways to spend their time, either organized or unorganized. For a while now, I've been seeing an event pop up every week on Facebook from a student who lives in the suite next to mine in Global Village. I finally decided to get to the bottom of it, and I thought those of you considering RIT might like a glimpse into the less-advertised nature of student life.
Piper Chester is a second-year Software Engineering student. In addition to his studies, Piper is a member of the Society of Software Engineers, serves as a public relations ambassador and is the President of the Ukelele club. He also plays in the Pep Band occasionally. As the person I see making the weekly Facebook event, I pulled Piper in for an interview to talk more about his weekly gatherings at the Ben & Jerry's scoop shop inside the Student Alumni Union.
Q: When did this Ben & Jerry's group get started and how did it become a thing?
So basically, last April me and a group of friends, it was a really abnormally nice day for April, you know, not the normal weekly clouds. So we're like, hey let's go to Ben & Jerry's today after class and it was just a group of me and like five other friends. We were like, ok might as well. Thursday afternoon, it's a good time to get ice cream. We meet up, get our ice cream, take a picture because one of our friends is an ice cream scooper there and we were like, hey take a picture of us, it'll be great. We got to chatting and were like, let's do this next week, this was really fun. And then we did. And the next week, and the next week and we were like, this is really cool; I like doing this it's a really nice end of the week sort of get together. We didn't necessarily see these people during the week but it was a nice way to get together. Next thing you know, there's a group on Facebook. We all know how official Facebook is. So we started inviting all of our friends and we've gone every week since that April aside from Summer quarter.
Q: Wow, so how many people normally?
Consistently, we have anywhere from twenty to thirty people. Sometimes a meeting will be like fifteen or a little lower than that. What we do every Week 10 is we have our Vermonster week and we'll only get Vermonsters that week and we'll see how many we can eat. Right now our current record for fall quarter week 10 was four so we're going to try to one-up that this week with five.
Q: Oh man, that'll be intense. How has the Ben & Jerry's staff handled a large group coming every week?
So, because we've gone to Ben & Jerry's a lot we've kinda befriended a lot of the staff. Half the scoopers are actually in the group. One of our best friends was the scooper all last quarter for this massive excess of people. But, um, how they handle it is sometimes we'll send them our flavors beforehand and they'll kinda like get everything ready so we'll just walk up in line and grab it. But they've come to expect that on Thursday at 8 there's just going to be a huge crowd of people. They kinda just brace themselves. It's pretty bad sometimes because there will already be a line there and we'll just come in with like twenty people and everyone will be like, "oh no!"
Q: Would you say it's an open group sort of thing or is it more exclusive than that? I mean, do you actively try to recruit people for this or is it more casual?
It's pretty casual but it's definitely open. I'm always trying to encourage new people to come. I make an event each week just to remind people that it's happening, even though most people already know. And I'm always like, hey bring your friends! You know, we want to expand this, I don't care, the more the merrier. It's just a get together. It's a good way to catch up to everyone, so definitely open.
Q: That's pretty cool. How would you describe the atmosphere of each gathering? I mean, how does that work with a large group of people inside the SAU, of all places, which doesn't necessarily accomodate large groups well?
We all just kinda show up at 8, 8:05, 8:10, what have you, and we kinda wait for everyone to gather. We all get in line, order our ice cream and afterwards we just kinda chat in one massive group or a few separate smaller groups that intermingle. Someone will come over and talk to this group, someone will meet someone new, it's pretty interesting actually. It feels kinda like a cocktail party.
Q: Nice, that's awesome! Now, you go for Vermonsters every week 10, how many total have you manged to eat?
Throughout the B&J's team... So, we've had two week 10's so far since we started mid-spring quarter last year. We've had a total of six Vermonsters as a group, although we've had, I think, a total of 27 meetups.
Q: Wow, pretty impressive. Obviously you're not like an "official" RIT club or anything like that, but you've managed to get quite a group of people together, for sure. So, for anyone else looking for similar success in this kind of thing, what advice can you offer them?
I would say just be energetic about what ever you're trying to do and try to reach out to everyone. Like, if someone feels like they came one time but they're not really comfortable coming again because they, you know, didn't really have a good experience, change that. Make it better for them. Kinda like speak to them, get them involved in the group, make it like a communal activity. Don't just make it an isolated group of people, try to like branch out and make sure everyone's having a good time and everyone's enjoying the experience.
Q: And finally, I just thought, lots of people getting together every week, something strange has had to have happened at least once. What's the strangest thing that's happened during one of these meetups?
Oh, man... uhm... I think one time a few weeks ago we just had a big snow and there was a lot of big snow chunks everywhere outside. One of my friends actually grabbed one of these massive frozen snowballs and brought it in to Ben & Jerry's and presented it to one of our friends who was an ice cream scooper at the time and said, "hey, can you make ice cream out of this?" And she said, "no, go away. Take that back outside."
Following the interview, I received a hearty invitation to join them next week. I think I just might. After all, those Vermonsters aren't going to eat themselves.