Keep rocking on

President Riley establishes the You Rock Initiative

Published by James Cressman, Date: October 5, 2023
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A rock with You Rock printed on the front sitting on top of a form that adorns the same writing.

It all started with a thank you note. The new initiative, “You Rock” announced by Slippery Rock University President, Karen Riley hopes to bring the SRU community together. Students, faculty and staff can be recognized for acts of kindness and engaging in the values of the university.

Riley said that she is an active thank you card writer, recognizing the work of others. This practice eventually transformed into the “You Rock” initiative under the leadership of Riley while she was a dean of students at the University of Denver. Students, faculty and staff could recognize individuals through “You Rock” cards.

The cards would be filled out with the person’s name and what they did to receive the card, and the nominating individual could choose to put their name on it or remain anonymous. Anyone receiving a card could turn it in for the possibility of winning a prize.

According to Riley, the prize was two tickets to a DU hockey game, where the lucky ticketholders would sit in what is called, the gold club. Much like the president’s tent at SRU football games, the gold club offered a full dinner, a meet and greet with the coach, and an experience valued at $2,000.

What surprised Riley the most, however, was the discovery that people were keeping their cards. She would walk into offices to find them taped on the wall next to desks or kept in other prominent areas.

Riley likened it to when special photos and childhood mementos are hung on the fridge. For Riley, seeing so many people keeping their recognition showed just how meaningful recognition was to the recipients.

Riley shared what she was seeing with the initiative with administration, who immediately loved the idea. As Riley explained, “They were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the greatest thing ever. We’re going to do this throughout the entire university.'” “You Rock” moved from physical cards to digital so they could easily be transmitted throughout campus.

When Riley came to Slippery Rock, which she described as having a very unique name, it only made sense for the “You Rock” program to be actual rocks. The rocks that are handed out have the term printed on the top side.

Early into the current fall semester, Riley realized that the “You Rock” initiative would be beneficial to SRU’s own campus. During the first week of classes, the newly arrived president happened upon a student who seemed upset sitting at the bus stop near the president’s house. When Riley inquired as to what was wrong, the student explained that they had missed the bus and now had no way of getting home.

A student walking home from her SRU Cru meeting happened upon Riley and the stranded student.

They offered to help demonstrate how to track the bus. When it became apparent the bus was no longer running for the day, that student offered to drive the other home.

Riley also shared a story about her pride in the SRU marching band.

At Rock Football’s game against Seton Hill University, she was proud of how the SRU marching band honored the opponent’s own band. After finishing their set, and even though they needed to leave to attend another event, the SRU marching band stood in the rain and cheered on enthusiastically Seton Hill’s marching band.

This act of respect and kindness prompted Riley to present a rock to the director of the marching band. Riley shared that she was proud to be in her green and white.

Riley says we see these kinds of things with our students all the time, and she believes SRU has great students.

While she already believes SRU has a good culture overall, the “You Rock” initiative will be another way to continue building on that. For Riley, this initiative is another way to offer thanks to those who are great ambassadors for SRU and the values of the campus.

Individuals who receive a rock can take it to the information center at the Smith Student Center, where they can drop it off and fill out a form to be entered into the prize drawing. Any individuals who wish to share their “You Rock” story are encouraged to reach out to The Rocket.

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James is a senior Strategic Communication and Media major with concentrations in digital media production and multimedia journalism. He also minors in film & media studies. James serves as the News Editor at The Rocket and President of Lambda Pi Eta: the National Communication Association’s Honor Society. James is a movie enthusiast, a “Star Wars” fanatic and a fan of all things comedy. James previously served as the President of WSRU-TV (2022-2024).

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