Ask a student about school spirit, and they may say it’s in short supply.
But current and former leaders of Colonial Army, the student fan section, said they have spent the past few years trying to change the narrative of GW’s stale reputation as a school that doesn’t care about sports.
Karl Pederson, a senior studying history and political science, took the reins as the organization’s president this year, but served on the executive board during his sophomore year. His high school had a strong football fan base, so when he arrived at GW he wanted to continue to be stationed on the front line supporting athletes.
“I waited in line for two hours and was able to watch the men’s team beat No. 6 ranked Virginia from the second row,” he said in an email. “After that I was hooked.”
Given his years on the executive board, Pederson has the institutional knowledge of what has worked for the student fan club in years past.
He also has spent years as a fraternity brother at Delta Tau Delta, which past Colonial Army leaders said may give him a leg-up as a “man on the inside” who can rely on his brothers to get involved during the season.
Pederson was looking for a vice president who isn’t afraid to push the envelope, and he found that in sophomore George Glass, who has showed up to every home game since his freshman year wearing a shark mask and hot dog suit.
Glass, who is studying political science, said he accepted the “Fan of the Year” award at the Georgie’s last year wearing the shark head with a suit and tie.
“They can see you do something ridiculous, they feel the need to be ridiculous themselves,” Glass said. “You need to put yourself out there, be a little crazy, have a little spunk and get out of your comfort zone.”
Glass said his plans to improve Colonial Army this year include allowing freshmen to apply for executive positions and having more “person-to-person” interactions with fans who have yet to find a place in the fan community.
“I want everyone in the students’ section, whether they’re in Colonial Army or not, to feel like they are included and to feel like they have a place where they can go, a broader GW community, and just be themselves,” Glass said.
As the organization’s new leadership heads into their first year at the helm, past leaders said the fun job sometimes requires students to think outside the box to engage their peers.
Kate Bell, who graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, served as the group’s president for two years. When Bell came to GW for Colonial Inauguration, she was told there was “absolutely no school spirit” at GW and her struggle to find a niche her freshman year drove her to the Smith Center.
“It is tough to dismantle years and years and years of people buying into the idea that maybe we don’t have as much school spirit as other people think that we do,” she said. “It’s a slow process but a worthy one to try to chip away at.”
During Bell’s time doing an occasionally “thankless job,” she broke home attendance records for the arena and bridged the gap between student-athletes and fans by helping men’s and women’s basketball players host pizza parties and season primers at freshman residence halls, she said.
“Sometimes your hard work definitely does not pay off in terms of getting students out,” Bell said. “And I think if you focus solely on the numbers, you might be disappointed more often than not.”
Nassim Touli, a junior studying exercise science who served as Colonial Army’s outreach director last year, said he is “super excited” for the new leadership. Touli said he anticipates Pederson and Glass will have a great season, given the potential fans that come with a larger freshman class.
The biggest “barrier” for students who wish to get involved, Touli said, is confusion about how the student body plays into the Colonial Army. But he said that every student can join just by showing up.
“If we can get you to one game, if the game is good enough and you’re having enough fun there, then we can get you to another,” Touli said.