Student Life

Life outside of class represents an important part of the Rensselaer experience

Neal Barton '58

As alumni, I am sure you are interested in knowing more about today's students: who they are and what their lives are like — not just in the classroom, but in the broader context of the Rensselaer experience.
  In this column, I am happy to share with you some excellent news about students and student life at Rensselaer, and bring you up to date on several national trends that are affecting our campus just as they are impacting colleges around the country.
  First, our enrollment trends. Both the number and the quality of our students continue to increase. The incoming class last September topped out at 1,141, up from 1,069 the year before, and our selectivity improved at the same time. Our undergraduate enrollment has increased by 364 students over the last two years, to 4,501.
  More important than the numbers, though, is the success of our deliberate efforts to attract and enroll students who will thrive at Rensselaer. A full two-thirds of the overall enrollment increase from 1997 to 1998 can be attributed to the fact that record numbers of our students are staying through to graduation. Our current freshman persistence rate of 92.4 percent (compared with a 10-year average of 87.6 percent) puts us on a par with the most selective private universities in the nation. We take satisfaction in this statistic as a reflection of our commitment to our students and their satisfaction with Rensselaer.
  In fact, 83 percent of last year's seniors said they were satisfied, very satisfied, or somewhat satisfied, a 15-point increase since 1993 and the highest level ever recorded. Our graduates are finding excellent prospects on graduation, as well. The starting salary for the Class of 1998 averaged $44,024 for engineers and $44,121 overall. The campus hosted more than 895 recruiters last year, representing over 450 employers.
  We continue to place attention on creating a diverse student population that will prepare our graduates for the workplace in a global economy. While minorities comprise 29.7 percent of the college-age population nationwide, they earn 10 percent of the undergraduate engineering degrees. Rensselaer's incoming class, comprised of 10 percent minority students, has exactly mirrored that statistic for the last two years. A new Diversity Advisory Board, reporting to the provost, was formed recently to focus attention on the broad spectrum of diversity issues (see, also, page 7).
  When we were students, perhaps we defined our success in mainly academic terms. But later in life, we realize that extracurricular activities and the quality of life beyond the classroom are also vital considerations in preparing students for success of many kinds after graduation.
  We give Rensselaer students many opportunities to learn how to become dynamic leaders--and productive team players. Last year, a total of 5,214 students, both undergraduate and graduate, took advantage of the Archer Center for Student Leadership's seminars, training sessions, and the annual conference that brings Fortune 500 executives to campus for a daylong workshop.
  Our students play sports. Seven hundred of this year's 1,100 freshmen played sports in high school, and two-thirds of them play intramural sports at Rensselaer. Many more join one of 23 varsity or 32 club sports; 11 of our varsity sports are women's teams. And they support winning teams. Last year, 21 teams had winning seasons and 11 finished first or second in conference play. As I write this in early February, our men's hockey team has a 9-4-1 overall record, and the women's hockey team, with a 12-5-1 record, is ranked fourth in the nation.
  And our students are serious about their quality of life.
  Recently The New York Times described "Club Ed" as the emphasis that students and their parents now place on such perks as attractive eating facilities, a speedy Internet connection, and a spacious workout facility when it comes time to select a college.
  Rensselaer students reflect this trend, and we are taking a hard look at needs in three critical areas.
  The Rensselaer Union building, now 33 years old, is badly in need of an update to revive a tired interior and provide the right spaces for the extensive club and leadership training activities. Athletic facilities require expansion and renewal, both for our varsity athletes and for the large number of students who expect and demand access to modern fitness equipment. Of all Rensselaer residence halls, only the Quadrangle has received a major renovation. A long-term, systematic project to renew our students' living spaces is long overdue.
  Rensselaer students today are similar to all of our alumni in many ways. They are bright. They are serious. They are looking to Rensselaer for support and guidance during four critical, formative years, and we are committed to fulfilling that need.

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