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President's View
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.


Our Time in historyr



Our commitment to the student experience, and our activities to ensure that we are preparing our students to live well-rounded and fulfilling lives, are among my highest priorities as president of Rensselaer. This issue of Rensselaer magazine brings you gratifying news of three projects that have come online just in the last 10 months, as it conveys a view into the lives of today's Rensselaer student.

  • The Mueller Center. Attached to the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center, this facility offers state-of-the art fitness equipment, rooms for fitness and other classes, and a welcome addition to community space on campus. Dedicated in May 2000, the center was constructed with the support of Rensselaer Trustee Nancy Mueller.

  • The Rensselaer Union. Constructed in 1967, the interior of the Union received a complete renovation over a period of more than a year to provide a facility that is updated, brighter, and most importantly, configured to provide better spaces for today's student activities.

  • Barton Hall. The first new residence hall since 1977, this 200-bed facility carries the name of trustee and former Acting President Neal Barton '58 to honor his service to the Institute. Barton Hall has been called "a modern business travelers' hotel" by the annual Time/Princeton Review guide, The Best College for You, because of its attention to providing work centers and networking infrastructure throughout every room.
  • In fact, state-of-the-art networking infrastructure is a feature of each of the building projects. Fifteen miles of cable support laptop Ethernet connections throughout Barton Hall, while the Student Union houses a concealed antenna network that supports wireless computing on the upper two floors. Similarly, the Mueller Center is networked throughout for our students.

    These three projects point to a broader, deeper commitment to students that encompasses one of the highest first-year priorities of the Rensselaer Plan—to improve and enrich the overall experience of the first-year students. FallFest was one such initiative, consisting of daylong entertainment for both campus and community that was held on a beautiful afternoon along Eighth Street at the Approach, and later with three concerts in the Houston Field House. On a broader scale, a First-Year Experience Task Force has put forth a report recommending programs that will create positive memories that will remain long after the first year and connect students to the Institute. Under consideration are programs such as wilderness, community-based, or other team-building experiences that commence before classes begin and continue into the first semester.

    Our plan to construct an electronic media and performing arts center, another of the first-year highest priorities of the Rensselaer Plan, is yet another means for enriching campus culture and broadening the scope of activity and discourse for our students. A task force has been put into place to begin planning for a 1,500-person facility, to be completed on an aggressive timeline. Plans call for an international competition to generate conceptual designs for the building as early as January 2001, with selection of an architect by March and decisions about site and design by August.

    Enriching the academic experience and expanding our research activity is the third of the first-year highest priorities singled out by the Rensselaer Plan for immediate attention. In this arena, also, we have the machinery in motion to produce rapid results. It is our goal to break ground by late 2001 or early 2002 on a biotechnology and interdisciplinary studies center, of at least 100,000 square feet, to support our critical goal of greatly expanding the research enterprise by concentrating our efforts in specific focal areas within information technology and biotechnology. An advisory committee is at work to define the scope of work to be supported in the new interdisciplinary center, and a second committee is in the process of selecting a nationally recognized architect for the job.

    Propelling all these activities is a disciplined exercise of performance planning that is engaging all campus units, both administrative and academic, in an exercise to define their role in realizing the Rensselaer Plan, to optimize and prioritize their activities in alignment with the plan, and to provide the necessary resources for those activities. We will present a zero-based budget to the trustees in February for the 2001-02 academic year that will have emerged from a disciplined process, and that will focus our resources on those areas most important to the future of Rensselaer. The performance planning also will identify critical initiatives in need of external support.

    I am pleased to report that along with this issue of the magazine you have received the 1999-2000 Salute to Involvement, which gives us the opportunity to thank you for all that you do in support of our endeavors.