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What does it mean to be a Yellowjacket?

What is a Yellowjacket?

It’s a question that has been asked many a time, especially by people who don’t know a lot about bees (including that a yellowjacket isn’t one).

According to this giant banner we have in Wilco—that’s Wilson Commons, the giant brick-and-glass cube we like to call the Campus Center (nobody actually calls it that, but it says it on the front of the building)—the adoption of “Yellowjackets” as the name for our sports teams came after some guy named Howard Garnish noticed that their uniforms were yellow and cheered “Go you Yellow Jackets!” back in the 1920s. I feel like this is probably a simplification of events, but whatever.

Anyway, as a prospective student, the question you’re probably here for isn’t “What is a Yellowjacket?” so much as “Am I a Yellowjacket?” The good news is there’s no wrong way to be a Yellowjacket. (Well, technically there are several wrong ways to be a Yellowjacket—43 pages worth as found in the Standards of Student Conduct—but it mostly boils down to “don’t commit any felonies and you’re doing pretty good.”) That said, there are a few things that many of us Yellowjackets have in common, and they might just give you a hint at whether Rochester is the place for you.

Yellowjackets are creative

As someone who is studying creative writing while juggling membership in TV, radio, theatre, and a music performance group, my perspective may be a little biased, but even outside of my direct experience, U of R is full of students who are bursting with creativity. There’s dance. There’s sketch comedy. There’s a cappella. There’s a cappella. There’s a cappella. There’s a cappella. There’s a cappella. (We have no less than five a cappella groups.)

In addition to extracurricular opportunities in the arts, students at the U of R have more options to indulge their creative side in the classroom than at many other schools. A common refrain for why people choose Rochester is our open curriculum, which forgoes gen ed requirements for greater academic freedom. A number of people I know (including myself) are combining majors in STEM with minors or double majors in the arts, and the open curriculum helps make it a breeze to accomplish.

Yellowjackets are friendly and open-minded

With a diverse student body and a five-star rating on the Campus Pride Index for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, U of R’s students are some of the most open-minded people you will ever meet. There are student groups for just about any culture or identity. Furthermore, the University has a history with the gay rights movement dating back to the 1970s, for which our one-time center of student life, Todd Union, earned a place in the National Register of Historic Places last year. While I can’t speak for students of every identity, my experience has shown me a campus culture of respect and inclusion, from the administrative level to our individual students.

Beyond that, the average Yellowjacket is friendly, easygoing, and kind. If you treat people well, you’ll be treated well in return. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, a partier or a studier, if you like people and are looking to make friends, you’ll fit in easily as a Yellowjacket.

Yellowjackets are individuals

One of the surest signs that you could be a Yellowjacket is your penchant for individuality. You are your own person, and you forge your own path. (This is the part where I start to sound like a personality quiz.)

It’s true, however. At Rochester, it’s difficult to guess someone’s major based on their other interests. NJR, our contemporary music performance group, isn’t dominated by music majors—far from it. One of my best friends is a physics major, but knows more about computer science than I, a computer science major. (Actually, maybe I’m just a slacker. Pictured: Me slacking off, in full Yellowjacket form.) Rochester students are multifaceted and can’t be put neatly in boxes. They apply themselves to multiple areas of interest and take advantage of opportunities to learn or try something new.

Yellowjackets defy stereotypes

Some of the stereotypes you’ll hear about Rochester students is that they’re nerdy, introverted liberals who are always studying. There’s a reason these stereotypes exist, but for the most part, they’re exaggerated at best. Are we nerdy liberals? Yeah, most of us. But we’re also artists, musicians, athletes, and more. And if you’re a Yellowjacket-in-waiting, nerdy probably sounds like a good thing.

The introverted, always-studying stereotype seems to come hand-in-hand with the nerdy stereotype, and in my experience, it largely isn’t true. In fact, you could broadly describe Yellowjackets as a bunch of social nerds. We literally have an Anime Interest Floor, which is like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood except everyone steps out of their doors and does a JoJo pose instead of waving happily at the camera. (At least, that’s what I assume it’s like. I’ve never actually been to the Anime Interest Floor.)

Are you a Yellowjacket?

Ultimately, the only one who can decide whether you’re a Yellowjacket is you. A creative mind, a freethinking spirit, and a drive to perform well academically are all indications that you’ll find your place here on campus, but we all know it’s impossible to summarize an entire community with a few choice descriptors.

Whether you decide that the U of R is right for you or not, I wish you luck on your journey to college. Choosing a school is a difficult and at times confusing process, and the campus community is only one of any number of factors that might influence your decision. If there’s one thing to remember about Rochester, however, remember this: There’s no wrong way to be a Yellowjacket.

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