In January 2001, President Shirley Ann Jackson tasked Dr. Gary A. Gabriele, vice provost for administration and dean of undergraduate education, to convene the Periodic Review Report Committee to prepare this update for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The report is organized along the lines of the university's administration. Content focuses on significant developments since the 1996 Self-Study Report and plans for the future.
On July 1, 1999, the Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson became the Institute's 18th president. The most significant changes and accomplishments at Rensselaer since the last Middle States review have resulted from the incumbency of President Jackson. She has led the Institute in its first comprehensive strategic planning endeavor in 25 years, created new positions to facilitate the plan's success, hired new leaders, revamped the budgeting process to ensure its strict adherence to the goals of The Rensselaer Plan, and inspired unprecedented financial support. This Periodic Review Report shows precisely how Rensselaer plans to achieve the vision articulated in The Rensselaer Plan: to be a "top-tier, world-class technological research university with global reach and global impact."
The most significant transformation posited by The Rensselaer Plan is the imperative that Rensselaer create a research portfolio of substantially greater size, quality, prominence, and impact. The Plan sets its sights on tier-one ranking among U.S. technological research universities, with a goal of expanding research funding from $43 million to $100 million annually in five years and doubling, from 125 to 250, the number of doctorates awarded annually over the next eight to 10 years. The Office of the Vice President for Research was created by President Jackson to enable this growth. As an early and integral component of the strategy to enhance position and distinction, Rensselaer is focusing investment in two Institutewide research arenas: information technology and biotechnology.
Rensselaer's resident student population is currently 6,981 -- 5,103 undergraduates and 1,878 graduate students. The student body also includes 2,700 part-time working professionals in graduate programs at Rensselaer at Hartford and executive programs offered through the Professional and Distance Education Office.
After serving as interim, the former dean of students became vice president for Student Life in April 2001. Since the last report, the Division has added the Office of the First-Year Experience to support one of The Rensselaer Plan's highest priorities. The Undergraduate Admissions Office moved from Student Life and merged with Graduate Admissions to form a new Office of Enrollment Management, which now reports to the provost.
Facilities-- both new and renovated -- are improving the quality of life for Rensselaer students. Athletics have been enhanced by Robison Field (2001), Harkness Field (1994), and the Mueller Fitness Center. Extensive renovation of the Rensselaer Union has resulted in greatly enhanced services, including state-of-the-art wireless Internet transmission. Barton Hall, a new residence for freshmen, is fully loaded for laptop and data communication. In addition, new wiring has been added to all of the residence halls to provide ethernet connections for all students living in campus housing.
The overall organization and roles of what was Computing and Information Services have been expanded and renamed Division of the Chief Information Officer. The chief information officer is now a member of the President's Cabinet, charged with responsibility for Institutewide information services and policy formulation in a manner that empowers the position in ways not possible in the previously more-distributed approach to policy and systems development across the Institute.
The challenge of meeting the cost of scholarly journals has been temporarily addressed by transferring a significant amount of funding from print versions to online journals and on-demand purchasing of articles.
The Student Information System Implementation Project was completed in 1999 with the purchase of Systems and Comptutor Technology's Banner system. Perhaps the greatest benefit to the students is the ability to transact routine business online. Students can now register for and/or add and drop classes, view their grades and bill statements, update their addresses, and view progress toward a degree via the Web. Additionally, faculty can submit grades online and gain access to information about student advisees.
Advancement initiatives have been undergirded by substantial Institute investments in marketing and campaign preparation. Division staffing has increased from 70 to 110 last year. Leadership has changed twice in the past five years; the current vice president was appointed in February 2000.
Since 1998, total support has increased steadily to $32, $37, and $43 million, respectively. Rensselaer is in the quiet phase of a comprehensive capital campaign and expects to take the campaign public as early as fall 2002. The recent (March 2001) anonymous gift of $360 million is a first step in plans to bring total support to new, and dramatically higher, levels.
President Jackson underscored the importance of the human resources endeavor and the vital contributions of people to a great university by moving human resources out of the Administration Division and creating a new Human Resources Division under its own vice president. The incumbent was appointed on July 1, 2000.
Positive enrollment trends and a disciplined budgeting process have resulted in the Institute balancing its operating budget in fiscal year 2000 after three years of planned operating deficits. The endowment had grown to in excess of $700 million on June 30, 2000. Investment in physical plant has increased over the past several years, and deferred maintenance continues to be addressed. Rensselaer's debt outstanding on June 30, 2000, totaled $116 million, approximately $7 million lower than the previous year.
In the last five years, three new facilities, the N.Y.S. Polymer Center (17,000 sq. ft.), the Mueller Fitness Center (33,000 sq. ft.), and Barton Hall (freshman residence, 61,000 sq. ft.) were added to the Troy campus, in addition to major and minor renovations across campus. Projects currently in design include two Rensselaer Plan priorities, a biotechnology and interdisciplinary studies building and an electronic media and performing arts center.
Dr. Jackson restored the position of provost, which had been eliminated by her predecessor, to ensure the highest quality academic programs. In addition to the five academic schools, the provost oversees the Undergraduate College, the Graduate School, the Office of Enrollment Management, the Office of Institute Diversity, Professional and Distance Education, and Rensselaer at Hartford.
At the time of our last Middle States review, the Institute was in the midst of a comprehensive effort to redesign its curricula. All the major goals of this reform have been achieved. In 1998, Rensselaer launched a new B.S. in Information Technology degree program taught by faculty from all five schools. Since the fall of 1999, freshmen have been required to own or lease a laptop computer for use in and outside the classroom.
The Rensselaer Plan calls for a major expansion in research and graduate education, specifically calling for a doubling of research volume and a doubling of the annual number of Ph.D. degrees awarded. The Graduate School is a key element in implementing these changes.
Significant curricular changes since the previous evaluation lie primarily in the integration of computing and technology into the design curriculum, and in the expansion of the thesis/final project as a year-long research and design "capstone" requirement that includes a required research/methodology component and a five-week competition studio. As a strategy to strengthen the School's reputation, develop a more diversified base, spur research, and bring specific areas of expertise to the faculty, several new graduate programs were formed.
In July 2000, three major research centers were transferred from the School of Engineering to the Office of the Vice President for Research to better coordinate the expanded and refocused research thrusts and activities of these centers, and to better assure and enable the interschool collaboration and research growth envisioned in The Rensselaer Plan. Engineering continues to play a principal role in these and other interdisciplinary centers.
The most significant leadership change in the School has been the dean incumbent. The current dean took office on November 1, 1999. Since 1996, 29 new faculty have been hired, of whom 26 were junior faculty members. Eleven of these junior faculty have been the recipients of the NSF's Early Career Award (including one who received the highly prestigious President's Award). Research expenditures continue to rise, and based on reported figures, the expenditures/research-active faculty is approaching $400K. Major multidisciplinary proposals have been recently submitted in the area of nanotechnology, among others.
Many courses have been converted to an interactive studio mode, the use of interactive learning techniques in and beyond the classroom has been increased, a new professional development sequence has been introduced into the curriculum, courses have been enhanced by adding in-class mobile computing, and a new design teaching facility has been opened.
In recent years the School has effectively built new programs strong enough to attract substantial and growing numbers of majors and dual majors. There are now 230 majors in the school and an additional 168 students earning dual majors. The B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication has nearly reached full capacity with 275 majors, mainly students who would not otherwise have come to Rensselaer and internal transfers who might otherwise have left the university.
There are also 167 graduate students in arts, communication and rhetoric, economics, ecological economics, philosophy, psychology, science and technology studies, and technical communication. The School has had a permanent dean since 1996, although department leadership has experienced turnover.
Several leadership and organizational changes have occurred over the last five years. The dean appointed in 1993 resigned in 1997 and the present dean has announced his intention to return to full-time teaching; a national search is in progress. In July 1996, the Department of Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems moved to the School of Engineering, while several faculty remained with the Lally School. Since December 1996, management programs for working professionals offered by Rensselaer at Hartford have been administered by the dean in Troy. A $5 million gift in 1999 provided an endowment for the Lally School's Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship. Since 1995-96, 11 new faculty have been added to the Troy department and 15 to the Hartford department.
The School has been lead by an interim dean since 1999; in May 2001 a new permanent dean was appointed. The realignment of Rensselaer at Hartford brought the Hartford-based Computer and Information Science department into the School of Science.
The explosive growth in computer science is remarkable -- at the undergraduate level the number of majors has gone from about 300 in 1995 to more than 600 in 2000. A similar effect is noted at the graduate level. Also noteworthy is the number of students who are pursuing "dual" majors, with computer science/computer engineering the most popular combination. New degree programs have been developed in bioinformatics and molecular biology, and in multidisciplinary science. Major new research thrusts are in bioinformatics, where two new internationally recognized faculty have been hired, and in newly developed research centers -- the N.Y.S. Center for Polymer Synthesis, New York Center for Studies on the Origins of Life, and the Center for Terahertz Electronics and Spectroscopy.
Along with the change to branch status in 1997, Rensselaer at Hartford's faculty has begun a transition from a clinical faculty to a tenured/tenure-track faculty with the goal to achieve high profiles and world-renowned recognition and accomplishments for applied research in conjunction with corporate partners. Specific industries to be targeted are aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and finance. Emphasis will also be given to publication in recognized archival publications by faculty.
Rensselaer has led the way in creating two new strong professionally oriented degree programs in Information Technology (IT): the B.S. in IT and the M.S. in IT. More than 100 Rensselaer faculty, from all five schools, have joint appointments to what is known as the "Faculty of Information Technology." Enrollment has grown from 57 in 1998 to 278 in 2000.
PDE currently administers four different programs targeted toward working professionals. These include RSVP, Rensselaer's distance learning program; the Navy Program begun in 1997; and the KAPL On-site Program also begun in 1997. In addition, PDE generally offers three to five noncredit Short Course programs per year from the Troy campus. RSVP enrolls more than 1,000 distance students in more than 75 courses per year. There are currently 13 full master's degrees and 21 graduate certificate programs available via distance.
The Rensselaer Plan was drafted after an extensive information-sharing and -gathering process involving the entire Rensselaer community, its alumni, academic and industry leaders, and external consultants. The Rensselaer Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Plan on May 12, 2000, setting in motion changes that have had significant impact on the budget and the budgeting process. Designed to be revised on a regular basis, the Plan guides Institute decisions and provides the framework for school and divisional performance plans, which, in turn, serve as the basis for each year's operating plan and budget. With the creation of the Plan and initiation of performance planning, the Institute is establishing a new performance-based operating and capital budgeting and reporting process that links directly to the performance plans and allows meaningful assessment of progress against the Plan.
The highly structured planning process resulting from adoption of The Rensselaer Plan is now institutionalized and ongoing at Rensselaer. Each year, results are assessed against the appropriate metrics, Performance Plans are revised, and the next year's operating plan (budget, capital projects, etc.) is constructed. All three levels of planning -- The Rensselaer Plan, school and division Performance Plans, and annual operating plans -- create an integrated and dynamic blueprint for achieving Rensselaer's goal of greater prominence.
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