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Postgrad: Carlin Gettliffe ’09 Pt. 3

Born and raised in Boulder, CO., Carlin moved to Rochester, NY after high school to attend school at the University of Rochester. Since graduating in May 2009, Carlin has continued to pursue his love for traveling while co-founding a technology business with two other Rochester alums. This blog post is part of a continuing series of posts about Carlin and his time at the University of Rochester.

By Carlin Gettliffe

Upon returning to the University of Rochester, one of my first projects was to re-start the Tactical Art Underground (TAU), a group most assuredly NOT sponsored by the University’s Student Association. TAU originated as a pranking club founded by me and several cohorts partway through our freshmen year. While brainstorming about what entertaining and annoying pranks we might be able to pull off, we began to think that perhaps we should consider doing something slightly more meaningful. What was born of that discussion was the idea of creating interesting and engaging art pieces that would be installed within various buildings on campus (still without permission, but without causing any damage to persons or property).

TAU is interesting not so much for what it accomplished, (only two successful projects in 5 years) but for what it led to, directly and indirectly. It was the first in a series of projects and organizations I was involved with during my time in college which have served to illustrate a point that I have since come to strongly believe.

What I came to realize is that the University of Rochester itself has a tendency, even a penchant, for breaking the “rules” (I’m talking about conventions, habits, and accepted practice; not laws). They broke the “rules” when they created a curriculum that gives students control of their own education in a way that is virtually unheard of in American universities. They broke the “rules” when they established two tuition-free (I repeat, free) fifth year programs. And they broke the “rules” when they let a few eager and headstrong students start the Urban Exploring Club, a club based on an activity generally assumed to be dangerous and illegal.

When we founded the Urban Exploring Club in late 2006, we weren’t quite sure what response to expect. How would the administration and student government react to a club based on an activity that is, at least in some forms, illegal and potentially dangerous? We presented the club within the wider context of drawing students off campus and increasing student interest in the city of Rochester. A couple months later, after a non-trivial number of meetings, emails, and hearings, we were a club. By embracing its connection to the University, the Urban Exploring Club has been able to negotiate permission to go into many of Rochester’s more interesting urban locations, for example Rochester’s abandoned subway tunnel.

Over time, the Urban Exploring Club gained more prominence (some might say notoriety). As we successfully tackled increasingly ambitious projects, thanks in part to the support of the Student Activities Office and Student Association, we became even more ambitious. This wonderful, vicious loop eventually led to ArtAwake (more to come in subsequent posts).

The attitude at Rochester that led to those moves is not one of foolhardiness; it’s one of measured exploration. That approach, and the fact that it permeates down to the level of administrators and students, is one of the things that made the various projects that I was involved in possible. As for myself, I realized that my assumption that returning somehow meant suspending or postponing exploring and adventure had been entirely wrong. Like most things, college is as much of an adventure as you make of it.

To be continued…

[Part 4]

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