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Jeff Trinkle

Trinkle Named Faculty Dean of the Residential Commons

The Division of Student Life has appointed Jeff Trinkle, professor of computer science and director of the Computer Science Robotics Lab at Rensselaer, to the newly created position of faculty dean of the residential commons. In his new role — with a three-year renewable contract — Trinkle will serve as an academic resource for living and learning communities and theme houses. He will also work to create new opportunities for faculty involvement and student learning outside of the classroom.

“As the Clustered, Learning, and Advocacy Support for Students (CLASS) initiative picks up momentum, it is important for us to connect students to a supportive network of faculty, staff, and upperclass students that will address the needs of the whole student,” said Eddie Ade Knowles, vice president for student life. “At Rensselaer, learning is about relationship building and sharing on many different levels. Our faculty members are already working directly with students — doing research, solving problems, teaching, and interacting — so the faculty dean of the residential commons position gives us an opportunity to nurture learning beyond the classroom.

“I am confident that Jeff will help to stimulate the intellectual, cultural, and social awareness of students within the residential commons, and share personal interests and hobbies to further enhance connections with students,” Knowles added.

Trinkle joined Rensselaer in 2003. Before that, he was a research scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. He has also served on the faculty at the University of Arizona and Texas A&M University. Trinkle’s research focuses on robotic manipulation, multibody dynamics, and automated manufacturing. Last year, he was selected as a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and cited “for contributions to analysis of robotic grasping and dexterous manipulation.”

Trinkle received bachelor’s degrees in physics from Ursinus College and engineering science and mechanics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received a doctorate in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He served as chair of the computer science department at Rensselaer for five years and has won numerous awards for his teaching and research.

“The position of faculty dean of the residential commons officially links me with the power and vision of Rensselaer’s CLASS Initiative,” said Trinkle. “I was attracted to the position by its potential to positively impact the experience of many of our students outside the classroom.

“I am looking forward to working with our students, faculty, and staff in Student Life to develop a variety of programs that will help our students become well-rounded, thoughtful professionals with respect for other cultures, and compassion and a sense of responsibility for those less fortunate,” Trinkle added. “I hope to focus on programs that accomplish these goals with participation by faculty members in settings that provide opportunities for students and faculty members to get to know each other in the non-academic dimensions of their lives.”

Reflecting on some of his personal interests, Trinkle noted that he and several of his long-time cycling friends were involved in the Great Delaware River Raft Race for nearly 13 years, starting in the mid 1970s. Race rules required each raft to be human-powered, so the group would race downstream each year over a more than 20-mile stretch of the river, finally winning in 1984.

While in high school and also college, Trinkle participated in various track and field competitions, an activity that still holds his interest today. An avid pool player while in college, Trinkle also competed in several NCAA regional straight pool tournaments, after qualifying through the Georgia Tech and Ursinus competitions.

“The residential college model allows us to create clusters of residence halls that offer students smaller, more tight-knit communities focused on blending the academic, social, and residential aspects of Rensselaer,” said Tom Tarantelli, acting assistant vice president for student life and director of the Career Development Center. “With Jeff serving as faculty dean of the residential commons, we will be able to provide students with opportunities to share and learn, not just as an academic exercise, but as a life experience.

“From the beginning, Jeff has expressed his commitment to partnering with CLASS and the deans to develop a cohesive academic program for the CLASS initiative,” said Lisa Trahan, assistant vice president of the student experience. “His firsthand experience as a parent of a former Rensselaer student and past membership on the Parents Council made him an ideal candidate. It is a thrill to work with Jeff to implement a new vision to improve the quality of the student experience.”

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 15, October 8, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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