#RiseUpNU promotes unity across campus


Paxtyn Merten

Members of the men’s and women’s basketball and hockey teams joined the Nor’easters student acapella group onstage at Blackman Auditorium Tuesday to promote unity across campus.

The athletics department joined forces with the Nor’easters and Office of Alumni Relations to bring their different audiences together. The result of the partnership was #RiseUpNU, an evening consisting of performances by the Nor’easters and the release of a music video they created in conjunction with the athletics department—a rendition of “Rise Up” by Andra Day.

“The whole project, including the name, is supposed to convey a feeling of our athletes and singers rising up to the highest level of competition as well as the whole Northeastern community rising up together as one,” said George Gardner, senior executive associate athletic director for external affairs.

The music video featured highlights from hockey and basketball games and the acapella group sporting Northeastern apparel and singing at different locations around campus.

“The video was so beautiful,” said Martha Durkee-Neuman, a third-year human services major. “I love seeing artists work with athletes, and especially during this time on this campus in this moment of history, we need people to work together and we really need student organizers and student athletes and student artists to come together.”

Gardner said his team chose “Rise Up” as the song featured in the music video and the name of the event because he found it moving and thought it reflected the message they wanted to send to the community.

“We wanted to make sure this video wasn’t one of our typical highlight reel kinds of videos,” Gardner said. “We wanted it to be more visceral and more emotional, captivating that feeling of togetherness that we wanted to project.”

Shams Ahmed, a Northeastern alumnus and musical director for the “Rise Up” video, said it was a two- to three-week turnaround to create the entire video, from arranging the song for the Nor’easters to recording the scenes and editing it all together. Despite the long days shooting video until 3 a.m., he said he was honored to be a part of the project.

“I think it’s really cool because it allows community members who aren’t involved in either sports or performing arts to feel that—because the two are such interestingly separate things that have come together in such a beautiful, harmonious way—that they too can be a part of it,” Ahmed said. “Any person who watches the video can take something from it.”

The Office of Alumni Relations financed the performance and promoted it to the Greater Boston community. Gardner said his team hoped to use #RiseUpNU as an opportunity to reinforce the theme of togetherness that the “Red Black One Pack” slogan carries.

“One of the parts of what we are trying to do is to engage students who have sort of a separate fanbase, not ones that typically come to athletic events,” Gardner said. “We could introduce ourselves to their fans and their followers, and it would be mutually beneficial. We could introduce our fanbase to them.”

The department emphasized promoting spirit and unity after conducting focus groups of Northeastern students. Gardner said his team was surprised to find that while students loved Northeastern because of the opportunities to co-op, intern and study abroad, these things caused them to spend much less time on campus and made them feel disconnected.

“They feel like they lose a little bit of that connection: the school spirit, a place to feel like a Husky, a singular place or thing they can rally around,” Gardner said. “They were looking for us to do more to create that.”

Related events and strategies to unify students around athletics have included pre-game barbeques and showcases against big competitors like Boston University and Michigan State University, as well as projecting symbols such as a paw print onto prominent Northeastern buildings to inform students of gamedays.

Putting this project together had a personal impact on Gardner, who said working with the Nor’easters made him realize how many thousands of high-caliber students he doesn’t get the chance to interact with in the Northeastern community.

“It was a real eye-opening experience for me to start connecting with other groups on campus,” he said. “Talented, energy-directed, goal-oriented, fun, smart people are all over this place and it makes me want to go out and do more of this kind of stuff.”

Photo by Paxtyn Merten