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