2013 President's Commencement Colloquy

President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut.

Calling her a “national treasure,” the National Science Board selected her as its 2007 Vannevar Bush Award recipient for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.”

She has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995- 1999). She serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, appointed by President Obama in 2009. Dr. Jackson also is a member of the International Security Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of State. Her research focus lies in theoretical studies of optoelectronic properties of two-dimensional systems. Her policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research.

President of Rensselaer since 1999, Dr. Jackson has led an extraordinary transformation of the Institute with an ambitious strategic effort known as The Rensselaer Plan. Under her leadership, more than 275 new faculty members have been hired, research awards have nearly tripled, and scholarships have increased. Her tenure also has been marked by innovations in curriculum, expansion of undergraduate research, and new award-winning student life initiatives.

Nearly $1.25 billion has been invested in The Rensselaer Plan, including more than $725 million in new construction, new equipment, technology, infrastructure, and renovations. Guided by her vision, Rensselaer is now home to the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, and the East Campus Athletic Village.

In 2001, President Jackson secured a $360 million unrestricted gift to the Institute. In 2004, she launched a $1 billion Renaissance at Rensselaer capital campaign. The campaign closed in 2009, having surpassed the ambitious goal of $1.4 billion in gifts and gift commitments, nine months ahead of schedule, exceeding all previous fund-raising at Rensselaer.

Dr. Jackson is a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the  U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the American Philosophical Society, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. She is a vice-chair of the Council on Competitiveness and co-chaired its Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability initiative. She is a member of the Board of Directors of global companies including IBM and FedEx.

Dr. Jackson holds an S.B. in physics and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, both from M.I.T. She has been awarded 51 honorary doctoral degrees.

2013 President’s Commencement Colloquy

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