Richard Kopp is the director of Student Leadership Development & Traditions who actively connects Drexel students with alumni while maintaining his position as the key leader in reviving the Drexel Fight Song.
The Triangle: What is your role at Drexel?Richard Kopp: My position has changed in the last two years in that it used to be just in-campus activities that I lived, and then they separated me out into my own office area, which is now student leadership development and traditions. The focus is on the CEO LEAD program — the acronym stands for “Creating Experiential Opportunities for Leadership Education And Development,” but half of my job is also to develop the Drexel senior experience program, which is fairly new, still only three years old. And the things that revolve under those areas in terms of leadership: we have a workshop series called the leadership certificate program, so students can attend as many workshops as they like throughout the year. We usually offer anywhere between 150 and 200 workshops in an academic year. And then the senior stuff, we work with a lot of partners across campus — like Steinbright, athletics and alumni office in particular — to plan social, educational, career-related types of events. A couple of the keystone events throughout that series and throughout the year: Two years in a row now we have held a graduation fair, which is basically the kickoff to the whole commencement timeframe. We also do a senior class toast with President John A. Fry that’s held in the Great Court in the Main Building. It’s a very exciting event because the seniors all come together, they get a champagne flute, and President Fry gives a congratulatory toast on the success over the last four or five years.
TT: What does the traditions part of your job entail?
RK: The traditions piece includes anything and everything that you can think of a campus tradition — homecoming; bringing back the Drexel fight song was a big thing that we did back in 2008. People don’t know that we used to have a football team up until 1973. And when it was disbanded by the board of trustees after several losing seasons, a lot of traditions went out the window at Drexel. In the ‘80s, early ‘90s when Drexel wasn’t financially sound, it was really a place that lacked a lot of campus spirit, and when football went, so did things like homecoming, fight songs; a lot of traditions that you see at most colleges and universities across the nation went out the window. So in 2008, we learned that recently, about a year or two before, the University archivist discovered the lyrics to the original fight song. We revamped it slightly, very slightly. The one line in the song said, “March down the field, boys.” Well there’s no football team, and we also have equal parity in our men’s and women’s sports, so we wanted to take out boys. And it also referred to Drexel Tech when Drexel was still a technical school, so we changed it to Drexel U. Other than that, it’s exactly the same and it’s celebrating its 75 years this year; it was launched in 1938. So it’s pretty cool. We were a major part of bringing it back, and it took a long time to bring it to the Drexel culture, but now it’s sung at every Drexel basketball home game, men and women, lacrosse games, soccer — anything you can think of, it’s now sung. And we teach it to all 3,000 incoming freshmen at the induction ceremony, so it’s a tradition that has now been revived, and it’s very exciting.
TT: What kind of feedback have you heard from students about revived Drexel traditions?
RK: We’re lucky now that the incoming freshmen and the last few classes never knew any different. Coming into Drexel, there was always a homecoming in their mind, so it was a norm to expect and have on campus. In fact, this year we will have … no Drexel student that had never not known a homecoming existed, because we’re finally in that era, that year, where everybody should have had homecoming from their freshman year on up. But the first few years [it] was a struggle because upperclassmen hadn’t known of a homecoming when they started here, and they were like, “What is this, what’s happening with it, why is it in January in the middle of the winter?” And getting alumni to want to buy into that and come back was a challenge too because they had never had one. The last two or three years, … it’s just been engrained in the student culture, so that hasn’t been a real struggle. And alumni are finally realizing that there’s a lot of benefit to coming back.
TT: What are some events you have planned going forward in trying to establish a stronger alumni connection with current Drexel seniors?
RK: Moving forward in fact this year, we’re looking to develop a couple of things: senior social series basically starting next month. We haven’t decided on the date or the terminology for this, but were looking to brand it as a “First Fridays” type social event where seniors and alumni can come together for networking happy hour, exchange business cards, but also socially connect and have a good time. And that will be a social series that will happen once a month … [going through] to the end of their class year. We are also going to put in a “100-day Countdown” that will kick off with a big celebration … to kick off that final phase of the seniors’ career here. And moving forward, we have a lot of great events that end the final term of the seniors’ home stretch. We’re looking to include a signature kickoff event at the very beginning, … something like [the University of Pennsylvania’s Hey Day] to kick off the year from start to finish.
TT: What has been your favorite accomplishment so far?
RK: This probably sounds cheesy, but my favorite and most proud accomplishment at Drexel is bringing back the Drexel fight song. I really feel that it adds a lot of campus spirit to events but also gets people excited about things. It started off as a small little spirit committee that was trying to do it, and I’m the only one left of that spirit committee that formed. … I’m the standalone champion of the fight song and have been the person at the last five years of the new-student induction ceremonies that actually teaches the freshmen the fight song and gets them to know it. … It’s a source of pride for me in terms of bringing something like that back that had been lost for many years.
TT: What else are you involved with outside of Drexel?
RK: I actually serve as an elected board member to the Pennsylvania College Personnel Association, and that’s a group of higher education and affairs professionals in the state of Pennsylvania who all come together and share resources and ideas and best practices. I’m the elected board member representing the private, four-year institutions on the eastern side of the state. … Personally I just had a son, about 15 months ago. It’s my first time. [My wife and I] just moved into a new home this summer, so we’re celebrating that and getting settled in and enjoying our new little one, so he’ll be a Drexel Dragon soon enough.
Triangle Talks is a weekly column that highlights members of the Drexel community.