She’s a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech: An Interview with Jill Riley, Ramblin’ Reck Club President
Jill Riley bleeds white and gold. Her parents – both mechanical engineers – have degrees from Georgia Tech, and Riley grew up attending Yellow Jacket basketball games with her dad. Her older sister, Alison, graduated from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) in 2016. When it came time for Riley to choose a college and a major, enrolling at Tech to study industrial engineering was a natural choice.
In her four years at the Institute, Riley has been involved in – and held officer positions for – numerous campus organizations such as Alpha Xi Delta sorority, the Student Government Association, Alternative Service Breaks, For the Kids, and ISyE Ambassadors. But perhaps no other organization is closer to Riley’s heart than Ramblin’ Reck Club (RRC).
Since 1929, the club has overseen many Tech traditions – from “RAT Rules” to Homecoming-related events. The club is arguably most recognized for being the caretaker of an iconic Institute mascot, the 1930 Model A known as the Ramblin’ Reck.
“I love Georgia Tech,” Riley said. “And I wanted to get involved with RRC early in my college career because I saw it as a really great way to help students integrate with Georgia Tech traditions and get them involved in campus life right away. And I knew that if I was going to pursue leadership roles in a campus organization, I wanted it to be with Reck Club.”
Riley applied for membership to the organization as a first-year. (The process requires applicants to go through multiple rounds of interviews and attend several socials and athletic events.) She served on the executive board as treasurer for and then became RRC’s president in November 2018.
As part of this year’s Homecoming festivities, Riley was named a finalist for Ms. Georgia Tech. In her candidate interviews for the competition, Riley emphasized her love of Georgia Tech and how she is grateful for Reck Club, as it has given her an avenue to share that love with so many people on campus.
In the following interview, Riley explains RRC’s integral role on Tech’s campus, her love of Tech traditions, and how RRC has shaped her college experience.
What interested you in joining Ramblin’ Reck Club as a first-year?
Like many students at Tech, I was super involved in high school, but when I got here, I decided to narrow my focus. My sister had been involved as a FASET cabinet member, and I wanted to do something different.
When I heard about RRC, and how its membership is like a family you have the whole time you’re in school, and how it keeps so many important Tech traditions, I realized it marries my passions of traditions, history, and culture within the sphere of all things Georgia Tech, to which I already had a deep connection.
What does RRC do for the Georgia Tech community?
So we obviously maintain the Reck and make sure students get to interact with it as much as possible. We offer headshots with the Reck and host Ride Out in Style, which gives graduating students the opportunity to have a final ride in the car.
We also create the T-Book (Traditions Book), which is presented to students at New Student Convocation, and oversee several Homecoming events – Mini 500, the Freshman Cake Race, and the Wreck Parade. But personally one of my favorite traditions that we put on is T-Night (Traditions Night), which happens early in the fall semester. It’s a campus-wide opportunity for students to come out and learn about Tech traditions in a fun, interactive way – including a huge block party. This year’s event was incredibly successful – we had 4,000-plus people in attendance.
In general, RRC’s mission is to spread joy, share Tech traditions, and get students involved with the Institute so they’re having the best college experience possible and are taking advantage of all the great things Tech has to offer.
What is your personal favorite of Georgia Tech’s traditions?
It’s a tie between the Mini 500 and “The Horse.” After every athletic event where the band plays, they end with a song called “The Horse.” All the students dance to the music, and then between the first and second verses, the students and the band members spread out to a different spot and dance again.
This was something I grew up seeing, when I was attending basketball games with my parents. They always said, “We have to stay for ‘The Horse.’” And even when we lose, staying for “The Horse” raises your spirits. It’s like, “I still have ‘The Horse’; I still love this place so much.”
How has your participation in RRC shaped you as a person?
My involvement in Reck Club has helped develop my self-confidence and my leadership abilities. When I first joined the club, the president at that time, Zach Freels, was an accomplished ROTC aerospace engineering major who graduated with highest honors and is currently in flight school training to become a naval aviator. I was so inspired by him, his role, and his dedication to the organization. And he was the first person to plant the idea that running for president might be something I would eventually want to do.
I had been treasurer for a year and was going back and forth about whether or not to run. I had people rooting for me and encouraging me, and I finally decided I was going to go for it. I’m actually an introvert, and being president has forced me to put myself out there and have confidence in situations such as talking with members of the administration and other Georgia Tech leaders to help drive change for the organization and include different perspectives.
How does your position as president interact with Ben Damus (BBA), the Reck driver?
They’re unique but parallel roles. When it comes to RRC exec board elections, the driver is elected first and then the president. I would say that RRC’s having two leaders – two voices – is something else that sets us apart as an organization.
I take on more of the administrative tasks. As the driver, Ben is completely in charge of the Reck. He drives and maintains it, and he’s in charge of scheduling its appearances on campus. He’s amazing to work with, and he makes my job easy.
The “rush” process for joining RRC is intensive. What advice about the process do you have for students who may be considering going out for the club?
I would advise anyone interested in joining Reck Club to meet as many members of the club as possible during recruitment! It’s a great way to get to know the club, and also for us to get to know you, so we can advocate on your behalf when we begin selecting our new membership class. There’s a misconception that you have to know everything about Tech’s traditions and history to get in, but really we’re just interested in bringing in passionate people who align well with the group as a whole.
Ramblin’ Reck Club recruitment will begin in early spring 2020. Keep an eye on the club’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RamblinReckClub/) and Instagram (@ramblinreckclub) for updates and announcements.