Faculty Senate Meeting

December 4, 2002

Attendees: Rensselaer President, Shirley Ann Jackson

 

Hartford Campus: Roger Brown, Lawrence Grasso, Ernesto Gutierrez-Miravete, Irina Ilovici, Jim McKim, Randy Peteros, Jim Stodder, Houman Younessi,

 

Troy Campus: Jun Abrajano, Jodi Ackerman, Kurt Anderson, Tom Apple, Bud Baeslack, Ronald Bailey, Terry Blanchet, Curt Breneman, John Brunski, Linnda Caporael (Chair, FS), Wilfredo Colon, Ken Connor, Michael Danchak, June Deery, Don Drew, Teresa Duffy, David Duquette, Alan Eckbreth, Joe Ecker, Jacob Fish, Joe Flaherty, Arthur Fontijn, Gary Gabriele, Cheryl Geisler, Lester Gerhardt, Johannes Goebel, Virginia Gregg, Helen Gryzymala, Prabhat Hajela, Mike Hanna, John Harrington, David Hess, William B. Hillig, Cheng Hsu, JJ Jahng, Gary Judd, Ash Kapila, Vera Kettnaker, Eddie Ade Knowles, Mike Kupferschmid, James Lu, Jack Mahoney, Charles Malmborg, Cecile Mars, Rob McCaffrey, Eileen McLoughlin, Leik Myrabo, George Nagy, Om Nalamasu, J. Keith Nelson, Jon Newell, Lee Odell, Robert Palazzo, William Pearlman, Yoav Peles, Peter Persans (President, FS), Bud Peterson (Provost), Steve Roecker, Art Sanderson, Henry Scarton, John Schroeder, Larry Snavley, Frank Spear, Daniel Sperber, David Spooner, Jan Stegemann, Don Steiner, Jian Sun, Boleslaw Szymanski, Carlos Varela, Kirsten Volpi, Wolf von Maltzahn, Sam Wait, Gwo-Ching Wang, David Wark, Morris A. Washington, Bruce Watson, James Watt, Tom Willemain, Bulent Yener

 

Click here for original Minutes from 12-4-2002

Agenda

12-4-2002

Meeting Welcome- Linda Caporael

Remarks by Peter Persans, President, Faculty Senate

Report by President Jackson

            Summary of President Jackson’s Report

           Adjournment

 

 Details of President Jackson’s Report

Comprehensive Overview of the Progress of The Rensselaer Plan

Investments in People

- Students

- Faculty

Investments in Programs

 

Questions and Discussions

 

Meeting Welcome- Linda Caporael

Linnda Caporael, Chair of the Faculty Senate convened the Fall General Faculty Meeting at 2:12pm. She welcomed everyone, introduced the members of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, and stated the agenda for the meeting.

 

Remarks by Peter Persans, President, Faculty Senate

Peter Persans, President of the Faculty Senate, updated the activities of the senate over the past semester, including the discussions over the impact of the new graduate policy resulting in a summary of faculty concerns, as well as recommendations and suggestions for action. The results of those discussions will be available in the minutes of the November 20, 2002 meeting, and posted to the website. The senate also discussed a proposal to add an emeritus faculty member to the senate as well as creating a definition of the term "faculty" for membership in the senate and voting privileges.

 

The senate initiated discussion on ways in which to assess faculty governance, and interactions between the faculty and the administration. The Curriculum, Planning & Resources, and Promotion & Tenure committees have had on-going meetings this semester. The activities of these committees can be found in minutes of the senate meetings.

 

Some major presentations to the Faculty Senate in Fall 2002, included:

 

- Bud Peterson, Provost – Issues and initiatives for 2002/2003

- Tom Apple, Vice Provost, Dean of Grad. Education – Grad. Advising: best practices

- Don Vitaliano, President, Rensselaer Chapter AAUP – Faculty governance

- Ken Miller/Robert Block – Retiree and Emeritus status

- Virginia Gregg, Vice President, Finance – Financial state of the Institute

- Curtis Powell, Vice President, HR – Benefits & Compensation Initiative

[- President Jackson met with the FS Executive Committee three times

during the semester.]

 

In the upcoming semester, a high priority will be updating the Faculty Handbook, especially regarding promotion and tenure issues. The senate will continue to collect information on, review and make recommendations for, the ongoing Performance Plan. The senate will address issues having to do with graduate and undergraduate advising, will update, and have significant input on the Compensation Initiative, and will continue discussions on governance assessment.

 

Linnda Caporael, thanked Peter Persans for his report, made special note to greet our Hartford colleagues via videoconference, and welcomed President Shirley Ann Jackson to the podium.

 

A summary of the President’s remarks appears below. Her detailed report is included as Appendix A.

 

Report by President Jackson

Summary of President Jackson's Report

President Jackson stated that she wanted to appraise the investments being made in Rensselaer’s future, and to review specific developments that have occurred since last year's meeting. She hoped that her presentation would paint a broad picture of the progress being made in fulfilling the goals of The Rensselaer Plan. She wanted to cover the key elements – people, programs, and platforms – that are building – cumulatively – a transfigured Rensselaer.

 

She noted that the nation – and indeed the world – is experiencing a period of economic fragility, and that Rensselaer has the same vulnerabilities as other institutions in this climate. And yet, she pointed out, Rensselaer is making significant advances on a variety of fronts. These include the hiring of new faculty, major new construction of academic facilities, and refurbishing and renewal of infrastructure. This progress, said the President, is due to the Rensselaer community having had the foresight to develop and begin to implement The Rensselaer Plan two and a half years ago. This plan – constructed by all Rensselaer constituencies, with its overarching vision, its focus on campus-wide goals, the setting of priorities, the effective and efficient use of resources, and the concurrent emphasis on performance planning and budgeting – is responsible for Rensselaer’s continued forward motion. The Plan, the President noted, has had the following cumulative effect:

 

- We have enhanced the student-faculty ratio, and we have made our first constellation hire;

- A new leadership team is in place, with all cabinet and dean-level positions filled;

- We are well underway toward a total compensation strategy, linked to the Plan.

- Careful budget monitoring and two years of favorable variances have conserved resources, which have been, and will continue to be, applied to the Plan’s initiatives and to facility renewal;

- Redeployment of academic resources is enabling us to offer “living wages” or a minimum stipend to all graduate teaching assistants;

- And, we have the continued commitment of the Board of Trustees to utilize the endowment for early constellation support, and further renewal of facilities.

- Cash gifts to the endowment are up – more than 150 percent greater than the next highest year’s total. Unrestricted giving is $10 million more than last year.

- We already are well along in a substantial capital campaign.

- Total research funding exceeded $50 million for the first time in 2001 and grew to $58.5 million in 2002.

 

The President then expanded on each of the above topics. She also recognized new members of the faculty and administration, and faculty who had achieved special distinction. She identified the key challenges Rensselaer continues to face, including the need for a stronger endowment, the need to achieve the freshman class target numbers, and the need for a definitive increase in the volume of sponsored research.

President Jackson concluded her remarks by thanking those present, and invited questions. Linnda Caporael asked for questions from the floor, starting with Hartford faculty members. Details of the questions and answers appear as Appendix B.

At the end of the question period the President thanked the Hartford faculty for attending via videoconference. She welcomed the faculty to attend the holiday celebration, starting at 4pm in the Russell Sage Dining Hall, where the university, at least once a year, can come together as a community. She also mentioned that Michael West, ('76, President, CEO of Advanced Cell Technology) who is at the center of discussions regarding human cloning, would be giving a very exciting and provocative lecture as part of the celebration of Faculty Achievements the next day. The President urged everyone to attend the lecture, as well as the reception. She thanked everyone for coming to the meeting, and said that she appreciated all the questions, "because in the end communication is the key. There are lots of rumors that go around and I try to be as straightforward as I can. That doesn't mean you like everything you hear all the time, but I won't lie to you. I'm here to try to tell you things as they are as I see them from where I sit. But in the end, I think all of us are working for Rensselaer and I've always felt that, and that is what impressed me, and that is why I came. Thank you very much."

 

Adjournment

There was no new business brought to the floor. Linnda Caporael, Chair of the Faculty Senate, adjourned the meeting at 3:25pm.

 

Details of President Jackson’s Report

President Jackson stated she wanted to appraise the investments being made in Rensselaer’s future, and to review specific developments that we have seen since last year's meeting. The President hoped her presentation would paint a broader picture of the progress we are making in fulfilling the goals of The Rensselaer Plan. She wanted to cover the elements – people, programs, and platforms – that are building – cumulatively – a transfigured Rensselaer future.

 

She noted, the nation – and the world – are experiencing a period of economic fragility created by declining stock markets, a sluggish economy, and made more uncertain by the threat of war and fear of any future terrorist attacks. A number of higher education institutions currently are facing financial hardships, hiring freezes, and budget cuts. Rensselaer is not immune. Indeed, we have experienced negative investment performance relative to our endowment for the past two fiscal years, although long-term endowment returns have been strong.

 

Rensselaer has the same vulnerabilities as other institutions in the current economic climate. And yet, Rensselaer is making significant advances on a variety of fronts: we have hired 66 new tenured or tenure-track faculty in the last two years, 32 of them into entirely new positions. ("Truth of the matter is we have actually hired 87 new faculty within the last three years, because at the end of my first year here 21 faculty were hired, before the initiation of the Performance Plan," she said.) We are making progress in hiring outstanding faculty constellations; we have begun construction on one major new facility, and we are finishing the design of yet another, while refitting classrooms, renovating space for research and pedagogical activity, and refurbishing residence halls, and other facilities for extra-curricular activities.

 

There are several reasons this is possible, given Rensselaer’s modest resource base and the current state of the economy.

 

First and foremost, it is because the Rensselaer community had the foresight to come together to develop and begin to implement The Rensselaer Plan two and a half years ago. This plan – constructed by all Rensselaer constituencies, with its overarching vision, its focus on campus-wide goals, the setting of priorities, the effective and efficient use of resources, and the concurrent emphasis as part of that, on performance planning and budgeting – is responsible for Rensselaer’s continued forward motion. In short, we've planned, and we've been focused to use our resources well (some might say stringently) and this approach will guide us well into the future.

 

The Plan has prompted coordinated, consistent endeavor across the campus with the following cumulative effect:

 

? We have enhanced the student-faculty ratio, and we have made our first constellation hire;

? A new leadership team is in place, with all cabinet and dean-level positions filled;

? We are well underway toward a total compensation strategy, linked to the Plan.

? Careful budget monitoring and two years of favorable variances have conserved resources, which have been, and will continue to be, applied to the Plan’s initiatives and to facility renewal;

? Redeployment of academic resources is enabling us to offer “living wages” or a minimum stipend to all graduate teaching assistants;

? And, we have the continued commitment of the Board of Trustees to utilize the endowment for early constellation support, and further renewal of facilities.

? Cash gifts to the endowment are up – more than 150 percent greater than the next highest year’s total. Unrestricted giving is $10 million more than last year.

? We already are well along in a substantial capital campaign.

? Total research funding exceeded $50 million for the first time in 2001 and grew to $58.5 million in 2002.

 

There is even a flip side to a stalled economy – because we are taking advantage of the lowest interest rates in 40 years, as we finance the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and begin the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center – two key transformational elements.

 

Comprehensive Overview of the Progress of The Rensselaer Plan

Here is a comprehensive overview of progress of The Rensselaer Plan, because being familiar with the complete picture helps all of us understand how what we do each day fits into the whole, enabling the achievement of the greater mission.

 

The Rensselaer Plan is a blueprint for investment in the future:

 

- Investment in people – students, faculty and staff

- Investment in programs – education programs and research projects, and,

- Investment in platforms – the physical facilities that will enable our students and our faculty to be successful in those programs.

 

Investment in People

Students

Students, of course are the reason we are here. We continue to attract the best – the highly motivated, the entrepreneurial, the socially conscious, and they are exceptional.

 

As most of you know, the Class of 2006 joins Rensselaer with an average SAT score of 1310. This metric has increased by 44 points, over the last five years, by 29 points since 1999. Twenty percent are Rensselaer Medallists, with 65 percent in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Ten percent are students from underrepresented groups as we continue to build toward increasing diversity. There are 69 “legacies” – students who are relatives of our alumni. This metric has nearly tripled in six years, telling us that alumni are increasing their family investment in their alma mater.

The Class of 2002, which graduated last spring, achieved an average starting salary with a B.S. degree of $51,735, while the Rensselaer M.S. degree commanded $70,854. More than 23 percent of that class went on to pursue advanced degrees at some of the most prestigious universities, including a good number who have returned to us to continue their studies here at Rensselaer.

 

Faculty

To educate these talented young people, Rensselaer has an extraordinary group of teachers and researchers. Over the last three years 17 Rensselaer faculty members have received the prestigious Faculty Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation, which is a remarkable number for any institution.

 

And, we augment this extraordinary group, with the equally extraordinary faculty who are here and the additional new faculty. As mentioned earlier, in the past two years, 66 new tenured and tenure-track faculty have joined us – 32 in entirely new positions. And you already know of the appointments in several key positions:

 

- For Rensselaer at Hartford, Alan Eckbreth has been named Vice President and Dean. Dr. Eckbreth most recently directed the UTC Fuel Cells Program at United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, Connecticut.

 

- Denis Fred Simon is Dean of the Lally School of Management and Technology. Before joining Rensselaer this summer, he was president of Monitor Group China Ltd. in Beijing, where he directed the company's strategic business development, and previously held positions at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

(President Jackson had an aside about her phone call with Senator Bruno, who has been a good friend to this university, particularly within the last year or so. He said he had just returned from a series of meetings in NYC, where he met with a delegation from Asia. He is very interested in creating partnerships between Asia and the upstate region, particularly focused on the universities. President Jackson reiterated to him Denis Simon's background and his interest in creating a global center focused on Asia here at Rensselaer and Senator Bruno said, "have the man give me a call.")

 

- Johannes Goebel joined Rensselaer as Director of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and professor in both the Arts and Architecture departments. Mr. Goebel is a respected curator, instrument designer and builder, and renowned composer of electronic music. He was the founding director of Germany's Institute for Music and Acoustics.

 

- John P. Harrington is Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Harrington was Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences for ten years and a full professor of Humanities at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.

? Selmer Bringsjord is Chair of the Department of Cognitive Sciences. Dr. Bringsjord has been Director of the Rensselaer Artificial Intelligence and Reasoning (RAIR) Lab and professor, specializing in the logico-mathematical and philosophical foundations of artificial intelligence.

 

- Robert E. Palazzo, a renowned cell biologist, is Chair of the Biology Department. Dr. Palazzo previously served as professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Kansas. Dr. Palazzo has worked with several public service organizations, including New York's Wadsworth Center.

 

- Donald Siegel, formerly a distinguished professor of industrial economics at the University of Nottingham in England, is Chair of the Economics Department. His research interests are the economics of technological change, university technology transfer, productivity analysis, and corporate social responsibility.

 

- Michael Century, a former professor at McGill University and art-and-technology consultant for the Canadian government, is Chair of the Arts Department. Mr. Century previously directed the Inter-Arts and the Media Arts programs at the Banff Centre for Continuing Education.

 

- Wolf von Maltzahn, former Vice President of Biomedical Engineering at the Whitaker Foundation, is the new Associate Vice President for Research, and a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

 

- Ken Ralph is Director of Athletics, overseeing Rensselaer’s 23 NCAA varsity teams. Ken comes to us from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut, where he was Senior Assistant Athletic Director.

 

- Mark Smith was named Dean of Students. Mark previously was Director of the Office of Minority Students Affairs.

 

- Donald Drew, who has been the Eliza Ricketts Professor of Applied Mathematics at Rensselaer and a member of our faculty for nearly 30 years, is the new Chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

 

This is a stunning lineup of distinguished individuals who are helping to bring Rensselaer to the next level. They join our already remarkable faculty and administrators.

 

Several faculty bear special mention:

 

- Michael Shur, who holds the Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts '48 Chair in Solid State Electronics, was selected as a recipient of a coveted Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany. As part of his prize, Dr. Shur is conducting research in Germany this year.

 

- This summer, President George W. Bush named David Duquette, professor and head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, a member of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB). This is a Presidential appointment that requires Senate confirmation, and Dr. Duquette in fact has been confirmed. As an expert in metallurgy and corrosion, Dr. Duquette provides advice on the integrity of the nuclear waste container planned for the proposed spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

 

- I'd also like to introduce, Omkaram ("Om") Nalamasu the new Director for the Center for Integrated Electronics. Dr. Nalamasu comes to us from that great institution, Bell Labs/Lucent Technologies.

 

- Prabhat Hajela, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, is now a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and a 2003 ASME Congressional Fellow. Dr. Hajela is spending a year in Washington, D.C., working on science and technology policy issues as a special legislative assistant in the United States Congress.

 

In research, there have been exciting developments and appointments, as well:

 

- We are pleased to welcome E. Fred Schubert, a pioneer in semiconductor research, as our Senior Distinguished Professor of the Future Chips Constellation. His constellation will focus on “leapfrog” technology that will usher in new advances in optoelectronics and communications, and in imaging, lighting, and sensing.

 

- Our own, Xi-Cheng Zhang, the J. Erik Jonsson Professor of Physics, is now Director of the new Center for Terahertz Research at Rensselaer. This summer, the W.M. Keck Foundation awarded Rensselaer $1 million to establish the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Terahertz Science within the new research center. The laboratory is expanding the Institute's pioneering work in terahertz microscopy, medical imaging, and other imaging research that may be used, among other uses, to identify terrorist threats of certain kinds.

 

Now, I have often said that Rensselaer staff members are the “great enablers.” Investing in their professional development is a “cannot lose” venture for Rensselaer, which banks our future. Therefore, a total compensation system is in development. Specifically:

 

- Performance Management Tools for all staff positions are complete, clarifying duties and responsibilities, core competencies, goals and objectives, career development and improvement plans, and job requirements.

 

- Career ladders and salary structures have been developed for 12 job families and define career opportunities. Implementation will begin this fiscal year.

 

- The Performance Management Tools and the career ladders are linked to a Course Catalogue of training and development opportunities for Rensselaer employees. The catalogue will be issued soon with courses beginning in January.

 

- Finally, a staff Handbook will provide staff and managers with guidelines regarding the Institute’s employment practices and procedures.

 

These rational, systematic standards will guide employee practices at Rensselaer.

 

Investments in Programs

What about our programs?

 

The Rensselaer Plan’s imperative to amplify the amount, quality, impact, and prominence of the Institute’s research portfolio is one of the Plan’s key transformational aspects. Our eminent faculties already are making steady progress toward this goal.

 

- Partnering with IBM, Rensselaer created a $33 million Broadband Research Center to build an advanced information technology infrastructure to handle any level of Internet traffic, data storage, and new scientific challenges that require immense computing power, such as bioinformatics.

 

- Major funding from the State of New York is supporting fuel cell research and research into a new microelectronics insulating material.

 

- The new Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center integrates research, education, and technology commercialization. The National Science Foundation last year selected Rensselaer as one of six national Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSEC), and is funding it with $10 million over five years. Additional funding comes from New York State, from Rensselaer itself, and from industry. So that the net is more like $25 million over the next five years. Called the Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures, the NSEC at Rensselaer is headed by nanoscience pioneer Richard W. Siegel, Robert W. Hunt Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer.

 

- Rensselaer has been awarded more than $9 million and the designation as a Center for Advanced Interconnect Systems Technologies (CAIST) by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC).

 

- The State of New York also is providing support in equipping the new Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Center, at $22.5 million dollars.

 

As we prepare for a new level of biotechnology research and education, we are investing in the pedagogy to which it will be linked. This summer, Rensselaer received $1.2 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to improve undergraduate science education through the development of new biotechnology-related courses and student and faculty exchanges with other universities. Grant funds are supporting development of a new biotechnology-oriented track in the biochemistry/biophysics program focusing on biocatalysis and metabolic engineering, and creation of a new major and focus in tissue engineering. These fields cross boundaries between departments including biology, chemistry, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and other disciplines. New undergraduate biology courses are being developed to introduce engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists to modern concepts in the biological sciences.

 

While investment in pedagogy is important, we also have developed new programs that directly invest in our students as people. We now have completed a second year of “Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond,” which helps new students transition into the Rensselaer community and introduces them to the broad opportunities available here, academically at the university, and in the Capital Region.

 

We have increased the scholarship award accompanying the 80-year old Rensselaer Medal from $10,000 annually to $15,000 annually, making it a more significant form of support for our undergraduates.

 

As scientific discovery and technological innovation accelerate, especially as we move into biotechnology and nanotechnology, it is incumbent upon us to examine the ethical implications inherent in these new frontiers. To this end, we have initiated, within the

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Rensselaer Center for Ethics and Complex Systems. The Center will conduct social, ethnographic, and historical research into the way technological change drives scientific and societal change – and will contribute to the establishment of "best practices" in the biotechnology arena.

 

With the arrival of Alan Eckbreth, and with the already important leadership of the team at Hartford, we're beginning to transform Rensselaer Hartford, repositioning it to focus on high-end signature cohort programs, focus on those who are on, or targeted to, the executive track, while refocusing and strengthening our existing general studies program. As you know, our intent is to move from having a purely clinical and adjunct faculty in Hartford, to having a mixture of clinical, tenured and tenure-track faculty.

 

Physical facilities also are important. The platforms supporting Rensselaer people and programs are expanding: the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, rising along 15th Street, and the 500-car parking garage on College Avenue, are the most tangible examples of new facilities getting underway.

 

Meanwhile, the design for the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center is being finalized and the site work will begin next spring. This landmark facility will cement Rensselaer's international reputation in the field of experimental and electronic arts, and it will connect the campus to the surrounding community and to world-class artists around the nation and the globe. It also will serve as a research platform for the creation of new media (especially for performance), as well as for visualization, animation, and sonics studies.

 

We also are investing more broadly in the quality of our students’ educational and living experiences. A $35 million investment in improvements to campus facilities is allowing us to complete systematic, rolling renovations and upgrades of freshman halls by next fall, and of upper-class halls between fall 2003 and fall 2005. We are planning a new upper-class residence hall, and we are pursuing graduate student housing options, including a small off-campus residence for first year, single, graduate students.

 

On the academic front, a new experimental "virtual classroom" in Architecture and an earthquake simulator are underway, as well as renovation of a microbiology laboratory, and the campus gigabit network extension.

 

While all these projects are promising and exciting, the concomitant disruption is also a challenge. But it is also temporary, and it, too, represents an investment in the Rensselaer future.

 

The investments we are making – in people, in programs, in platforms – are having a cumulative effect. Rensselaer is getting more press ink than it has gotten in a very long time. We all know it is harder to build your reputation than to lose your reputation.

 

The September 23rd issue of U.S. News & World Report once again places Rensselaer among the nation’s top 50 universities with a 47 ranking. It rates the undergraduate engineering program at 15th in the nation, a jump from 17th last year, and Rensselaer also ranks 34th as a “great school at a great price,” up from 42nd last year.

 

As I indicated earlier, research funding, too, is rapidly rising. Total funding exceeded $50 million for the first time in 2001 and was more than $58.5 million in 2002.

 

Fund raising at Rensselaer is up by more than a factor of two in three years. Total giving is at the highest level in our history. U.S. News & World Report rankings for alumni giving showed that Rensselaer jumped from 61st position to 51st position – from 2000 to 2002. This rising investment clearly demonstrates the faith of Rensselaer alumni and friends in The Rensselaer Plan, and their trust in us to bring Rensselaer to the next level. The December issue of “Rensselaer Magazine” has a full report on accomplishments under the Plan, and I recommend it to you to give you a comprehensive statement on how far we have come.

 

We are in a remarkable period in the history of Rensselaer. We have achieved extraordinary growth made even more remarkable for occurring within the current economic climate. You have not heard me say that we are going to lay people off; I said we would continue on our trajectory. You have not heard me say that we are going to cancel any capital project. We are renovating academic, research, and residential facilities, and we are going to build the facilities we've started out to build. We are strengthening our athletic department, and will be providing more full-time coaches for all of our teams, and we are attracting stellar students to Rensselaer.

 

As I said at the outset, the Rensselaer community had great foresight in setting itself on this transformational path and in adhering to it.

 

We still face many challenges. We will continue on the path of transformational change by planning and executing the plans, by husbanding and focusing our resources, and by being accountable, as we expend those resources. We will continue to have to make hard choices.

 

While there have been accusations, there has been no intent to overly manage. The university was without policies in many key areas and had non-adherence to other policies that did exist. So, sometimes when any policy is put into place, it can feel very constraining. However, the intent is not to restrict, but to have coherence, because that is how we multiply our effectiveness, and how we leverage the resource base that we have.

 

I look forward to working with all of you as we work through various issues with the clear understanding that we are all working toward the same goal: to make Rensselaer stronger than it is – financially and in terms of reputation – and to continue to attract ever-stronger students, both undergraduates and graduate students, especially as we expand our graduate and research programs, to enhance and grow the faculty, and, overall, to make Rensselaer recognized in the way that it should be. In short, to live up to the legacy that all of us inherited: the greatest technological research university in America.

But the continuing truth is that we need three key elements if we are to advance:

1. We need a stronger endowment. This is why, of course, we are planning a Capital Campaign and focusing on giving. [This becomes a greater challenge as the economy slows giving overall.]

2. We need to achieve our freshman class target numbers, because we still are an undergraduate tuition-driven institution. Again, this is harder to do as the competition for the best students mounts. That is why we have to be competitive in terms of what we can offer them financially. That is why we have to do strengthening across the board, and why we have to invest in facilities and faculty across the board.

3. We need to see a definitive increase in research volume [even at a time when the federal budget is in transition, and when discretionary spending on the federal level will likely decline, and of course we know that the states are experiencing unprecedented budget deficits.]

 

Let me go back over these points in turn because this is reality, but even as we face that reality, think about where we are when we put our shoulders to the wheel. We're winning in terms of research proposals, as we never have before. New York State still is investing in Rensselaer; $22.5 million is, as they say, "Not chopped liver." It is getting competitive to achieve, and get the size of the class we want. But we are actually winning, when it comes to strong students whom present the strongest credentials, they are preferentially choosing us.

 

Even though "giving" is an uphill issue and it takes ever more time, the very fact that we have doubled the giving, and the cash giving, within the last three years should tell you something. This means we should continue to face forward and not look back. The situation calls upon each and every one of us to lift our standards and to redouble our efforts.

 

The Rensselaer Plan contains more than 140 “WE WILL” statements aimed at guiding the Institute through a transformation that will place it among a handful of universities shaping the 21st century. Two and a half years into living and working the Plan, I believe that we can say, truly, "WE ARE" shaping the future. So, if nothing else, whatever your disagreements with anyone, whatever your feelings at any given time, you should have confidence, because what I found when I came to Rensselaer, more than anything else, was a group of very bright, hard-working people, but ones who actually had a kind of inferiority complex. I would hope that what we have been able to achieve together should shatter any of those feelings. We are changing the world.

 

President Jackson thanked everyone for their attention, and said she would be happy to answer any questions.

 

  

Questions and Answers

Jim McKim, Interim Chair, Engineering & Science, Hartford: “Is there any news on the Rentschler Field?"

 

President Jackson: "Well, the answer is 'yes and no,' we continue to have our focus on partnering with UTC, to create a presence; but there are a number of things having to do with some decisions that the Governor needs to make, relative to that whole project completely coming to fruition, that will guide our decisions about what kind of investments we might make there. But we are continuing the research partnerships and projects with our colleagues at UTC Research Center and we are using those as the basis that we hope to leverage off of in terms of an established presence at Rentschler Field, but more importantly, an established research presence in science and engineering in Hartford."

 

Wilfredo Colon, Assistant Professor, Chemistry Department, Troy: "I saw some statistics on undergraduate students, including quality; I didn't hear as much about graduate students. Part of me thinks that ultimately we'll be as good as our graduate students, not necessarily as good as our faculty, because these are the ones that actually do the work..."

 

President Jackson: "Tom (Apple) would you like to make a comment or two on this?"

 

Tom Apple, Dean of Graduate Education: "First of all, in terms of the metrics that we use for quality in our graduate program, all of those are up this year as well. I think we have what I would call the most selective class. The efforts we are making now, with the new graduate policy, we will attract better and better students because we are going to support the students that we bring in. It is very attractive to a student to come in and see that they will get four full years of support because we have the research dollars to do that. So, for our graduate program, we want to improve the quality and the size, and we have to improve the quality first and then the quantity."

 

President Jackson: "From the statistics I've seen, I would say there are two things that I see, one is that there are basically two renormalizations going on. One is a shift and a bias, in a number of departments, more to Ph.D. students than to Masters students. The second along with that, is a more careful evaluation of who is admitted, relative to the belief in terms of people being successful in research oriented graduate programs. Is that a fair statement, Tom?"

 

Tom Apple: "Yes that is right."

 

President Jackson: "So, I think that speaks to what you are talking about. But that renormalization has meant that, in fact, we did have fewer incoming graduate students this fall than we had in the previous fall. But what has happened is, that in fact we essentially have had more graduate students than we've really been supporting with our research programs. So we are renormalizing, but the intent is to grow, as we grow that capability."

 

Gwo-Ching Wang, Chair, Physics Department, Troy: "Yesterday, all the Chairs of the School of Science had a meeting with a Washington advisory group and one comment was made by Frank Press when we were talking about teaching assistantships and he made a statement saying that, 'If a school offers a teaching assistantship, but the other school offers a fellowship then there is no way we can compete.' I think everybody understands that. My question is that for a teaching assistantship the Institute has set as a minimum (stipend) $12K for the two semesters. Is there any plan that this minimum can be raised say in the very near future, because recently I wrote two fellowship proposals and the guidelines on the NSF and Dept of Education were always the full year - two semesters plus summer - to $21.5K per year. So if you renormalize that into two semesters, it is still higher than the $12K for two semesters at Rensselaer. So I was thinking before we can get all the fellowships we want, maybe our teaching assistantship also could be raised a little higher, so that we can stay more competitive? "

 

President Jackson: "Well, I think there are a couple of things that could be said. First of all, a university does not compete with the federal government, in terms of whether our fellowships match what the NSF gives. The NSF fellowships are portable fellowships. Where we want to be competitive is in attracting those who win these national fellowships to Rensselaer. That is going to be a function of what people think of the quality of the graduate programs here, and the research that people will be involved in. Secondly, if you are talking about university-given fellowships and how they compete with other university-given fellowships, then that is where you can do comparisons.

 

One of the key priorities in the Capital Campaign is for graduate fellowship support. But even now I am soliciting support for endowed funds, as well as expendable funds, for graduate fellowships for students. The third comment is that the $12,000 for the Academic Year, is a floor not a ceiling, and therefore Departments can augment those if they wish. But the truth is, obviously, we will examine as we go along, the need to increase the baseline stipend for our teaching assistantships. But because we had to renormalize to be able to support 550 full Teaching Assistantships (some institutional RA's) after the minimum stipend, we started with what we could afford. Because as you will recall there were a number of students on TA'ships that were getting half-stipends; that were getting stipends that were less than $12,000; and so the first rule we've made is to renormalize so that any student who does get an assistantship from Rensselaer, gets that minimum stipend. .

 

That is already an improvement in what students are getting and therefore in how attractive what we have to offer is. Of course, this is also referenced to what the cost-of-living is here. So, you cannot exactly compare what the minimum stipend needs to be in Troy, New York, with what it may need to be in New York City. Nonetheless, we are going to continue to benchmark and look at that, and put it at a level that we feel allows us to attract the quality of students that we want, consistent with our means to do it.

 

Now, there is a way to instantaneously raise that stipend, which is to cut down on the number of TA'ships and institutional RA's we offer. Because we are where we are in terms of our money. Again, we are fundamentally undergraduate tuition-driven, and therefore until and when we begin to see these other sources of revenue to support our graduate students, there is a trade-off, because there is a 'pocket' of money and we want to support as many students as we can at a baseline amount that makes sense, but as we go along we will hope to improve the stipend, but we cannot do that instantaneously."

 

Tom Apple: "Also, to that point, in order to establish a top-quality graduate program, we have to make sure that the number of Research Assistantships available to the students that we attract, at least exceeds the number of Teaching Assistantships we have here. So students can expect that when they come here, they may start out in a TA position, but they know that they are going to have a research grant that they can jump to. This semester for example we are supporting close to 550 students on Institute resources in the form of Teaching Assistantships and Institute-funded Research Assistantships. But we only have 250 externally funded Research Assistantships. I think on a go-forward basis, we can expect to have 425/430 TA's, but we really have to get the number of RA's up well above the 250 it is at now. And I'll remind you that the 250 RA's is at the old rates, so that is grandfathered in. I think our biggest challenge as faculty, is writing more proposals; which are actually up about 25% from last year, but we have to keep that kind of momentum in order to really strengthen the graduate program."

 

President Jackson: "Most graduate programs have students supported on a balance and a blend of sources. Obviously, there are Teaching Assistantships, some institutional fellowships (which in defacto is what our institutional RA's turn out to be.) But a key component is the support of graduate students on research contracts. What Tom's statistics indicate is that we have been out-of-balance relative to those Research Assistantships which come out of externally refunded research and that is something that really does have to improve in terms of our ability to have the number of graduate students here we would like, and to be able to fully fund them through their graduate careers.

 

Also departments have to be able to project in terms of their intake, on average, how many students they think they can support down the line. It will not be, at least not any time soon, that the university itself from central funds can support all the possible grad students that departments might want from beginning to end on university TA's. But we feel we've made an improvement because essentially we've had graduate financial aid that was really targeted at supporting about 430 TA's, supporting 540 TA's. What that meant was, there were a number of students who were getting support (if you think $12,000 is not enough!) at $5,000 and $6,000, arbitrary amounts of money. What we have done is said we have to renormalize, whatever number of TA's we support, we are going to fully support them at least at this baseline level and with full tuition remission. But we also upped the number to 550, but fully-funded. So instead of having full funding for 430 positions, we are funding 550 positions at any given time. But Tom's point is a key point, and that is that we cannot expect to grow the graduate program if we are not growing the research, because one plays off the other. We have to be able to have a sustainable model in terms of supporting our graduate students."

 

Carlos Varela, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, Troy: "Why are we not allowed to have one-half TA, and one-half RA?"

 

President Jackson: "Part of the reason for doing that is the fact that it did not allow us to be clear of the fact that we were having students who were getting full support, and there is a movie called, The Road to Perdition and you know that is the kind of splitting-up of things that initially led us to having arbitrary amounts of support for students. So, for the time being, we want to stay focused where we are until we see how this works. We are not even a year into the way we are doing things now with the full-support. In addition, the real point is to have students come in, focus on getting the academic background, getting course work and exams out of the way. The Ph.D., where we are increasingly focused, is a research degree, and therefore when students are then at the point of doing research they should be able to fully devote their time to research and not have this kind of a split. Splitting it at the beginning means they don't get the fundamental academic background out of the way as quickly as they should; splitting it at the backend means they are not fully devoting their time to research, and the Ph.D. is a research-based degree.

 

Bill Pearlman, Director, Center for Image Processing Research, ECSE, Troy: "It seems to me that the current policy of not being able to split an RA and a TA, is really a disincentive to funding, and also a great risk in having to fund a graduate student for a full year and summer, or perhaps even two years and two summers. I don't see myself actually wanting to commit to that ahead of time and…”

 

President Jackson: "You know the policy in fact for Ph.D. students says that if we support a student on a TA; that in the year the student makes that transition to working with a faculty member, on his or her grant, we will split the cost 50/50. So, in fact you have a transition here (if a student is moving from a TA'ship) to understand whether you in fact are going to continue to support that student, and that is what we can do with the means that we have and still have a coherent process.

 

Bill Pearlman: "Well, that is not the way it has been explained. It has been explained that if I want a new student, and I want to bring them in, I will have to pay ahead of time the full amount."

 

President Jackson: "Well, if you are going to start the student right out in your research group, the answer is 'yes.' But, in fact, what we are saying is that we are supporting a cohort student, at any given time, a certain number of them on TA'ships and that for those who are Ph.D. students, the policy that I just described pertains. What we are not doing, is we are not going to split the TA and RA's for our first-year student, because part of the intent of the policy is not just about money, but about giving that student time to take courses, to focus, to pass exams, to do what the students need to do, so that the student can then really devote full time to research, and hopefully finish faster."

 

Bill Pearlman: "Well, this is not the way it's been working, what's been working is that we are losing students..."

 

President Jackson: "Well, I don't know your individual situation, and it is Tom's responsibility to work it out, but working it out does not involve splitting the TA's and RA's at this point in time."

 

Henry Scarton, Director - Laboratory for Noise and Vibration Control Research, MANE: "My question relates to Communiversity. You didn't talk too much about that today, the part I want to address is the local industries, such as General Electric and Lockheed Martin. I went to the ASME's Mechanical Engineers Winter Meeting about two weeks ago and a number of the managers told me they have made a major change in their policy for the master's program in particular; if you have five or less courses they are forcing them to transfer, by distance learning, to Georgia Tech or Penn State. They are sort of boycotting us, and I'm very concerned about that. They actually told me they were doing this. If they had six or more students, they could finish, but if not then they are not going to take our courses. In Mechanical Engineering we have a lot of very outstanding people in KAPL, and GE and they will have to go to distance learning, and I'm very concerned..."

 

President Jackson: "Well, we are aware of what GE and KAPL have said, (Bud, I don't know if you'd have any commentary) but the truth of the matter is again, there will be some renormalization and the question is, 'Will people come to us, pay our price point, because of the quality of what we give them?' We cannot structure our tuition on what Georgia Tech or Penn State charge because they are state universities, and even though they are subject to the vicissitudes of state budget, there is an appropriation every year that covers the baseline appropriation for salaries, there is a separate capital budget that state universities get. Rensselaer is a private institution, and for the support that we have gotten, and are getting from the State, our resources are fundamentally our own; we are very tuition-driven, we are trying to build the endowment, and that tuition is undergraduate tuition. We cannot fund everything on the undergraduate tuition, and that is kind of the baseline. I appreciate the concern you have, but you have to understand the concern I have. I have to run the whole university, and to take care of each part of it in a fiscally responsible way, and I cannot run Rensselaer, and Rensselaer's graduate programs on undergraduate tuition. That's just a fact. Bud, any comments?"

 

Bud Peterson, Provost: "I think you said most of what I was going to say. Henry, as we talked the other day, we've had meetings (we met with Vic Abate from GE and with Mike Quinn from Lockheed/KAPL) and have had on-going discussions with them as to what they are doing, what their expectations are and how we can interact with them. The fact is that they have to make decisions about where they think they can get the best value. They have been using Rensselaer for many years, and the companies all agree that they have been using Rensselaer as a key factor in their recruiting efforts. They sell the idea that students can come to Troy, NY and work for KAPL, or work for GE and get a Masters degree or Ph.D. at Rensselaer. They are sacrificing that when they move to distance learning. I believe, and in the conversations we've had with Mike Quinn and Vic Abate, that they understand that, and they are concerned about it, and they are concerned about the quality of the education that their engineers are going to get in taking distance courses, vs. real courses on campus. But, I reinforce the point that the President made, that we cannot offer graduate courses at a price that costs us money to enhance and strengthen these extremely large corporations. We have had discussions with them, and those are on going.