INTRODUCTION AND GENERAL OVERVIEW

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the oldest technological university in the nation. Total enrollment of approximately 9,700 students includes 5,100 undergraduates and 1,900 graduate students on the Troy, New York, campus; 1,800 graduate students at a satellite campus in Hartford, Connecticut, and 880 enrolled in our Distance Education program.

Men and women from all 50 states and 83 countries are enrolled in programs in architecture, engineering, humanities and social sciences, information technology, management, and science, and in interdisciplinary programs that cut across all of these areas. More than 100 programs and 1,000 courses lead to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

Rensselaer's heritage in both education and research is one of applying science to "the common purposes of life." The Institute is especially well known as a national leader in innovative undergraduate education -- most notably in interactive learning and studio-based pedagogy -- and for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. Rensselaer is a pioneer in interdisciplinary research in such fields as microelectronics, advanced materials, scientific computation, polymer science, industrial automation, and lighting research.

Unique strengths in areas such as interdisciplinary inquiry, interactive learning, and technological entrepreneurship place Rensselaer among the top national universities according to sources like U.S. News and World Report. Nevertheless, the Institute faces some very real challenges.

Rensselaer is small and under resourced compared to its peer institutions. The pace of growth in research funding, advanced degrees, and endowment at Rensselaer has lagged behind most major research universities. And, while we have realized remarkable accomplishments with limited resources, the gap between our aspirations and our means continues to grow.

With the arrival of Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson as Rensselaer's 18th president in July 1999, the Institute embarked on its first comprehensive strategic planning effort in 25 years. The result is a new strategic plan -- The Rensselaer Plan -- that communicates our vision to be a "top-tier, world-class technological research university with global reach and global impact." It also put into action a highly focused, disciplined process that ensures that all programming and financial decisions will be made for strategically sound reasons.

This Periodic Review Report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education shows precisely how Rensselaer plans to achieve its vision. In doing that, the report looks as much into the future as into the past.

In January 2001, Gary Gabriele, vice provost for administration and dean of undergraduate education, convened the Periodic Review Report Committee [Appendix 1] to prepare this update for Middle States. Members were drawn from all of Rensselaer's schools and divisions. Although committee members compiled materials specifically for this report, their work was vastly aided by the two-year planning process just completed. Much of the original self-assessment and planning that a report of this nature would ordinarily entail was already at hand.

What is perhaps unique to this report is the fact that 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.

Rensselaer continues to be governed by a Board of Trustees. As of March 1, 2001, there are 32 active trustees. Representation of women on the Board has increased, although ethnic diversity has remained nearly constant. Of the 32 active trustees, six are female (compared to two of 30 in 1996) and four are African-American (compared to three in 1996). The one Asian-American member in 1996 resigned from the Board on January 1, 2001.

This report is organized along the lines of the university's administration, with sections positioned approximately the way the entities appear on the university's organization chart. Content focuses largely on significant developments since the 1996 Self-Study Report and plans for the future; consequently it should not be viewed as a complete description of Rensselaer and its programs.

Collected under the President's Office are reports from many of the vice presidential divisions. Similarly, academic schools and functions are organized under the Provost's Office.

The last section of this document contains details about The Rensselaer Plan and the planning process, enrollment and fiscal trend data, and an explanation of the relationship between strategic planning and budgeting.

 

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