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ARRL Acting as Catalyst in College Radio Club Revitalization Campaign


ARRL is serving as a catalyst in a nascent campaign — “Ivy + Amateur Radio” — to boost college and university Amateur Radio club interest, membership, and activity. The initiative sprang from a conversation earlier this year between ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, and retired Yale University staffer Dr Martin Ewing, AA6E, about how to get colleges and universities to revitalize their ham clubs. Ewing relayed the message to the president of the Yale University Amateur Radio Club (W1YU), who, in turn, contacted the president of the Harvard University Amateur Radio Club (W1AF). The two schools subsequently sponsored what turned out to be a standing-room-only forum at the 2016 ARRL New England Division Convention in Massachusetts over the September 10-11 weekend, with representatives from Harvard, Yale, Penn, and MIT on hand. During the Convention and at the forum, ARRL gave copies of the 2016 ARRL Handbook to all college and university attendees.

“They all share common problems, which include finding suitable space, finding faculty or staff sponsors — preferably permanent — and providing for an orderly succession of student leadership,” said Gallagher, who attended the forum and moderated the hour-long idea exchange that followed. Gallagher said a college club shouldn’t fall into decline just because students graduate.

“Undergraduates are busy people, they’re all competing for the top jobs and have busy social lives,” Gallagher allowed. “Sometimes it’s difficult for Amateur Radio to compete with those other interests.”

Representatives of the Ivy League clubs are planning to meet — possibly in New York — in December. “There’s a lot of work to do before that next meeting,” Gallagher said. “We want to create a reflector, we want to create a mailing list, we want to reach out to all the clubs that did not show up. And of course we welcome college club to join us.” He said a senior member of the Yale team offered a “generous contribution” to ARRL to support the Ivy + Amateur Radio initiative. Initial efforts will include a newsletter and a Facebook page.

The Yale-Harvard forum related — in tag-team fashion — a timeline history of Amateur Radio in general and of the Yale and Harvard Amateur Radio clubs in particular. “One of the things we learned was that several years ago, Harvard’s radio club lost its student activities sponsorship, and they got it back — which is very difficult to do in this day and age,” Gallagher recounted.

He stressed that the outreach initiative is not limited to Ivy League schools, although that has been the initial focus. “We welcome the participation of everyone,” Gallagher said, “but the Ivies and MIT stepped up in a leadership role. The Ivy schools are very competitive with each other, and college students are very competitive with each other, and what we want to do is to put that competitive energy to work to fashion wider college Amateur Radio club participation in the process.” Gallagher noted that many state colleges and universities already have active Amateur Radio clubs. “We hope they’ll join us in what will become an ever-widening circle,” he said.

Contact Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, for more information.