Residence Hall Delegation Wins Best Spirited University and other Awards at Illinois Residence Hall Association Conference

Tue, 2017/02/28
Ethan Castro

During the weekend of February 18 to 19, the Illinois Tech Residence Hall Association (RHA) led a delegation of executive board members, resident advisors (RAs), and other residents to the Illinois Residence Hall Association (IRHA) conference hosted at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston, Illinois. The Illinois Tech delegation of ten students certainly made their best efforts to bring their school spirit, and it paid off. Among other awards, the university's delegation was able to take home the award for “Most Spirited Large University” as well as the Philanthropy award for bringing in over 500 donated items to support local charities.

The conference as a whole is best described as one of energy, enthusiasm, spirit, and surprise. From the delegation’s first arrival to the EIU campus, applause and cheering followed them wherever they went. Although Illinois Tech’s nature as a technological institution lends itself to preconceived notions of its students as silent and introverted, the delegation came prepared to spread its own personal brand of school spirit -- free giveaways and thematic ownership. With a full assortment of Illinois Tech buttons, decorated clothespins, school t-shirts, keychains, and origami goldfish (with Illinois Tech fun facts hidden inside), the Illinois Tech delegation ensured that no attendant of the twelve-school conference left unaware of Illinois Tech’s existence.

The conference officially began with the opening ceremony within EIU’s Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. Every delegation was tasked with presenting a roll call introducing the school’s members and remaining consistent with the conference’s theme: “Oh the places you’ll lead!" The Illinois Tech roll call, created in the weeks leading up to the conference, played out a murder mystery where one member of the delegation, RA Leslie Villanueva, was discreetly poisoned by RA Zofie Mandelski. It was then the job of Sher-hawk (RHA National Communications Chair Simon Sai) to examine the murder and find the culprit. Although the delegation’s roll call did not end up winning Best Roll Call, it most definitely helped break the impression that Illinois Tech would come to this conference silently.

After the opening ceremony, the conference proceeded into is main substance -- breakout programs and presentations. With a wide assortment of delegation-led presentations available, the Illinois Tech students were free to pick from their choice of personal development, campus leadership, and IRHA training sessions meant to facilitate the free spread of ideas between student leaders across the state of Illinois. All along the way, Illinois Tech students did their part to give away their free Illinois Tech souvenirs to fellow conference-goers and contribute to the overall development of leadership at the conference. The takeaway lessons each individual student gained from the conference are too numerous to list here, but Dhanisha Geerdharry describes her experience as one to remember: “I learned a lot from the programming sessions such as 'melting pot and salad bowls' that made me realize how cultural differences could stop us from forming awesome relationships with other people around the world.”

Attending the individual programs, participating in conference cheer sessions, and partaking in the overall sense of spirit and enthusiasm ended up paying wonders for the Illinois Tech delegation. At the conference’s end banquet, a total of four awards were bestowed upon the university, including “Most Spirited Large University” and the conference’s Philanthropy Award. In addition, Simon Sai was awarded a two-year IRHA award for his second attendance of the annual conference, and Diana Wu was awarded “Most Spirited Individual” for her noteworthy overall contributions to the entire conference’s sense of spirit.

Of course, the Illinois Tech delegation’s success at the conference was only possible because of the support of its Residence and Greek Life advisors, Patrick Fina, Andrew Bradley, and Jena Henson. Director of Residence Life Jena Henson had a particular personal interest in this conference as EIU is her graduate school alma mater. "I am so proud of these amazing groups of students for pushing their limits and doing amazing work to make IIT proud and to bring home awards for service, spirit, and philanthropy.  Such a pleasure to have been one advising this group."