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The Global University and the Future
With recent partnerships, Rensselaer is taking its place
Ideas about global leadership and innovation took center stage at the Colloquy the evening before May Commencement on the Troy campus. In a broad-ranging dialogue the Commencement honorees renowned architects Santiago Calatrava and Peter Bohlin ’58 along with retired General Wesley Clark discussed the challenges inherent in balancing the local and the global, the public and the private, the drive for competitiveness and the need to maintain environmental responsibility. All of these topics are especially pertinent to Rensselaer’s role as a national and, increasingly, global university.
In his book The World is Flat, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls our present era “Globalization 3.0” a time marked by “a newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally.” He believes “Individuals must, and can, now ask, ‘Where do I fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally?’” These are questions which Rensselaer must answer as well.
Interestingly, The Rensselaer Plan, launched six years ago, was prescient in outlining the challenges that the 21st century would bring to a technological research university. However, little did we know at the time that those challenges would be so immediate, and, in some cases, so dire. The dot.com bust, the events of September 11, 2001, economic downturn, soaring energy prices, climate change, war, and terrorism have altered our understanding of the world and our relationship to it. The good news is that Rensselaer is changing to meet these ever-more-complex demands of globalization, energy security, health and safety, and homeland security, among many challenges.
Two recent partnerships epitomize Rensselaer’s emergence as a research and innovation leader. This spring brought the very exciting announcement of the $100 million partnership between Rensselaer, IBM, and New York state to create the world’s most powerful, university-based supercomputing center and a top 10 supercomputing center of any kind in the world. The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) will be a hub, bringing together university and industry researchers and providing them with leading-edge tools to solve critical problems across disciplinary boundaries. This collaboration will allow researchers to make a global impact in information technology and in areas as diverse as energy, homeland security, biotechnology, medicine, and the arts. You can read more about this center on page 7.
A collaboration between Rensselaer and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute will further research at the intersection of the life sciences, the physical sciences, and engineering. Research will be conducted in several areas, including nano-medicine, nano-bio materials, smart orthopaedic implants, biomolecular imaging, and development of drug-delivery devices. This partnership enhances the Institute’s growing strength in the life sciences, while building on traditional strengths in engineering and the physical sciences, enabling medical researchers to make major breakthroughs.
Meanwhile, Rensselaer continues to reach out to regions of the world where the impact of the increasingly global economy has been most dramatic. This spring I led a delegation from Rensselaer to India, where I saw the power and the potential of the Institute in the global arena. We met with the President of India, as well as with prominent leaders in science-related government agencies, leading universities and research institutes, and companies. Throughout, we raised awareness and understanding of Rensselaer educational and research opportunities. We explored, and signed memoranda of understanding for, future collaborative educational and research efforts. We attended alumni events in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bangalore where we were inspired to see the global reach and the global impact of Rensselaer alumni and alumnae as we did during our trip to China, Singapore, and Malaysia last year.
For Rensselaer, being a global university is not just a dream, it is a fact and a necessity in this more complex and interconnected world. In that spirit we continue the transformation of Rensselaer, charting a course toward a better future for all.
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