From the Archives
Making a Difference
Alumni Travel Program
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
Our Time in historyr
OUR TIME IN HISTORY
EXCITING TIMES AT RENSSELAER
At the start of
a new academic yearand the beginning of my second year as presidentwe
are seeing solid progress toward the realization of the Rensselaer Plan.
As you know, I believe that this is Rensselaers time in historyits
time to extend existing areas of excellence in undergraduate education,
to enrich the student culture, to expand graduate programs, to win recognition
as a top-tier technological research university. That conviction drives
the Rensselaer Plan, and informs its blueprint for the Institute.
As one of its boldest ambitions, the Rensselaer Plan calls for the Institute
to establish a significant presence in two focal areas of research:
information technology and biotechnology. In biotechnology, in particular,
we pursue a sphere that is largely new for Rensselaeryet unmistakably,
a major driver of todays economy, and critical to human health
Given the breadth of the biotechnology arena, and the many large and
established programs in biotechnology in universities across the nation,
we have devised a specific strategy in order to secure our presence
in this field. Our plan revolves around the formation of constellations,
which, like the astronomical term, refer to stars, in this case renowned
faculty, surrounded by additional outstanding faculty, graduate fellows,
and undergraduate students. To extend the metaphor further, these constellations
will create critical mass in our effort, and convey immediate credibility
to our peer institutions.
With characteristic Rensselaer speed and agility, we created our first
constellation over the summer, in bioinformatics. We have hired two
nationally known faculty to lead the bioinformatics initiative, mathematician
Michael Zuker, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St.
Louis, and Charles Chip Lawrence 68, who holds joint
appointments as research professor of computer science at Rensselaer
and chief of the Biometrics Lab at the Wadsworth Center, a public health
research laboratory of the New York State Department of Health. These
renowned researchers, along with faculty members Chris Bystroff, assistant
professor of biology, Wilfredo Colon, assistant professor of chemistry,
John Salerno, professor and chair of biology, Mark Wentland, professor
of chemistry, Mohammed Zaki, assistant professor of computer science,
and others, form the nucleus of bioinformatics constellations, the first
of several planned in biotechnology .
Our progress in our second focal area, information technology, also
proceeds apace. As noted in my June column, a gift from Gail and Jeff
Kodosky 70 has enabled us to begin recruiting faculty and graduate
fellows for a constellation in physics, information technology, and
entrepreneurship. This constellation also will be the first of several
planned for the field of information technology. To bring you up-to-date
about Rensselaers existing research activity in information technology,
and about alumni who have made a major impact in this field, we have
included two articles in this issue, Pioneers of the Internet
and Untangling the Web!
Other news from
the university conveys the forward momentum that Rensselaer is experiencing.
The graduating class last May accepted an average starting salary of
$48,600 for a B.S. degree and $65,200 for an M.S.
for this falls class, up 21 percent over the last five years,
reached their highest volume since 1986. Selectivity has increased,
SAT scores and other measures of academic achievement are up, and our
yieldthe percentage of students who choose to enroll after we
accept them for admissionis now second only to MIT.
The incoming graduate
class is strong as well. Mid-summer numbers indicate enrollment is at
a five-year high, at 5.4 percent over 1996. Confirmations from doctoral
students and minorities are ahead of last year, and quality indicators
remain strong, with significant increases in GMAT and GRE quantitative
and analytical scores.
This year, all of
our students will experience a new level of service and new opportunities
thanks to three projects that are online for the start of the new academic
year. The Mueller Center, dedicated last May, serves as a fitness and
community center for the entire campus (see March 2000 Rensselaer).
The revitalized Rensselaer Union reopened in August with new meeting
spaces, a fresh new look, and a technology and telecommunications infrastructure
that rivals any school in the country. A celebration including past
and present student leaders takes place on Sept. 23.
The first new residence hall since 1977, Barton Hall, is fully wired
with 15 miles of data cable. Built to meet the needs of the next generation
of students, Barton Hall is designed to extend the Institutes
collaborative learning environment, with student team conference rooms,
work centers, and lounges equipped for working. Barton will be dedicated
on Sept. 22. Look for a full presentation about these exciting student
projects in the December issue of Rensselaer magazine.
And the campus is now home
to a piece by renowned 20th-century sculptor (and former Rensselaer
faculty member) George Rickey.
These are exciting
times at Rensselaer, and I expect the pace of change to accelerate even
more in the year ahead. As always, I welcome your feedback about our
initiatives, and I look forward in the coming year to meeting more of
our alumni family whose support is so important to our success.