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

 

.IF WE BUILD IT...

Rensselaer Plan will serve as blueprint for the future.

My first eight months as president have given me tremendous confidence and tremendous enthusiasm for the future of Rensselaer. During this time, as I have met with alumni, visited with corporate leaders, and consulted with government officials, both here and abroad, I have seen the universal recognition of societal needs that match the core strengths of Rensselaer. These needs, in brief, include the imperative for the United States to educate a technologically educated workforce, the power of discovery and innovation to create wealth, and the fundamental understanding that innovation demands the new knowledge that is produced by research. In each arena, then, society is presenting us superb opportunities for greater relevance and greater prominence than at any time in our history.   

If, as president, I can lay claim to the title “architect” of the Institute’s future, then I believe that we are embarked on an ambitious “design/build” project, with the Rensselaer Plan as our blueprint. As you recall, I invited alumni input to this process last December, and I look forward to the completion of this visionary document later in the spring. But even as we continue to “design” the Rensselaer Plan, already we have begun to build.   

Perhaps the most important decision in this regard has been the creation of a new position of vice president of research, and our choice of Arthur Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering to fill the post. As we place added emphasis on Rensselaer research as a foundation for our pedagogy, the key to a robust graduate program, and the basis for innovation, Professor Sanderson will draw on his experience at the National Science Foundation, and his outstanding academic credentials, to provide strong leadership to this endeavor (see Milestones).   

We have also made a significant move to enhance student recruitment by creating a new dean of enrollment management, responsible for identifying and enrolling Rensselaer’s entire student body— undergraduate, graduate, and distance and professional students, including those enrolled at Rensselaer at Hartford. This new position, which reports to the provost, will be headed by Teresa Duffy, former dean of undergraduate admissions, who has done a superb job in enrolling an undergraduate student body of not only outstanding academic quality but also uniquely suited to benefit from, and enjoy, a Rensselaer education.   

The academic enterprise continues to grow stronger, as witnessed by an extraordinary level of recognition for the young faculty who will be the leaders of their fields tomorrow. In the past year, six Rensselaer faculty members have been recognized with the prestigious National Science Foundation Early Career Award aimed at young faculty members actively engaged in research and education. Wilfredo “Freddie” Colón and Julie Stenken, both assistant professors of chemistry, Ken Jansen, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Xie George Xu, assistant professor of environmental and energy engineering; Thomas Yu, assistant professor of mathematical sciences; and Ganapathiraman Ramanath, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, all have received this honor and substantial new support to further their research activities. Shivkumar Kalyanaraman, assistant professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, has been named one of the TR100 young visionaries by the editors and a panel of judges at Technology Review, MIT’s magazine of innovation, for work on Internet congestion.   

I am also pleased to report that financial support from our alumni and core supporters is extraordinarily strong, with fund raising running 34 percent ahead of last year at the same time. In January, we received a multimillion-dollar gift to the endowment from Trustee Nancy Mueller, wife of the late Glenn M. Mueller ’64. The optimism of our community also is evidenced by the successful completion of fund raising for the Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory and the Blue Ribbon Initiative, both initiatives of the School of Engineering.   

It is with great pleasure that I share with you this update and its message of confidence for Rensselaer’s future. I look forward to the completion of the Rensselaer Plan, and the full realization of its aspirations for our future.

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