|Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
Rensselaer students are committed to making the local communityand the worlda better place
Rensselaer takes pride in its extraordinary students who bring distinction every day to the Institute through their hard work and commitment to academic excellence. Students maintain intense schedules of classes, labs, and study while also participating in myriad clubs, organizations, and athletic teams. What makes our students even more remarkable is their growing commitment to service, and their keen understanding that they have much to contribute to making the local communityand the worlda better place.
We hear too much these days about how young people are uninterested and uninvolved in bettering the world around them. I find the opposite to be true of Rensselaer students; in fact, our students have taken the idea of communiversity and made it uniquely their own. They are eager to work for positive change in the neighborhoods in which they live and study, and to put their education to use for others in need. Our students in Greek organizations exemplify this commitment. However, dedication to leadership and service pervades the entire campus community, and this makes Rensselaer a place where the call to change the world has real meaning.
Rensselaer students are active in numerous community programs and fund-raisers throughout the year. Many younger alumni remember the annual Troy Record Clothe-A-Child campaign, a longtime student service initiative. Through a series of fund-raising events and opportunities, students raise enough money each year to provide warm winter clothing for youngsters whose families cannot afford to provide coats, hats, mittens, and bootsbasic winter needs that no child should have to do without, especially during our sometimes bitterly cold winters. The most recent campaign provided about 800 children, ages 4 to 12, with winter clothes that they selected themselves at local stores.
In another service initiative, the Rensselaer chapter of Habitat for Humanity broke ground on the groups first house in late April. The house at the intersection of 11th and Jacob streets, near the Troy campus, is being built for a Rensselaer staff member, the mother of three children who works in the mailroom. Now 300-members strong, the group has worked for almost three years to raise money for this project.
The campuswide celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January and the annual Rensselaer Community Service Day in April were other occasions for student service. During these daylong events, which were sponsored by Rensselaers Office of the First-Year Experience, students joined with faculty and staff to take part in service opportunities located throughout the city of Troy. Volunteers built an outdoor hockey rink in Prospect Park, helped children at the Junior Museum make musical instruments with recycled materials, conducted a spring clean-up in Frear and Prospect parks, and worked on the Arch II house, designed by architecture professor Walter Kroner, to name a few of the many activities on these days.
Support for all these initiatives at Rensselaer is strong because we want to develop our students leadership skills and social awareness, as well as their intellects. Senior Jessica Constantine 03 is a wonderful example of a student whose educational background and leadership skills are bettering the lives of women in the local community and half a world away. The first recipient of the Rensselaer Alumni Association Community Service Award, Constantine developed a self-help computer technology resource center for low-income women in Troy. Last summer, she traveled to Botswana to establish a similar center for women in the town of Gaborone. This is a classic example of a service project with true global reach and global impact.
Rensselaer is developing the next generation of leaders, creators, and problem-solvers who will face the dramatically changing challenges of the 21st century. Thus, we must give our students a world-class educational experience not only in our classrooms and labs, but also in the areas of their lives that impact the kind of human beings they will become. By supporting and nurturing the many dimensions of our students especially their passion for servicewe will enable them to be effective leaders and change agents as this young century unfolds. They will be exciting people to watch.
|Rensselaer Magazine: June 2003|
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