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Accepted Student Celebration and Dinner

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

ECAV Practice Gymnasium
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Friday, April 12, 2013


Good evening.

It is a joy and a delight for me to meet with so many talented students and to have the opportunity to get to know your families. Tomorrow, you will join with other accepted students and their families to tour the campus and get answers to important questions. Tonight, I want to say a few words to you personally.

First, to the family members:

I have been in your seats. Hopeful, but concerned, about what college would mean for my son. Would he get the education that would help him achieve his dreams? Would he get the support he needed during his college years? Would he fit in?

I also know that these questions are particularly acute for parents and family members of minority students.  We are here to assure that the answers to all these questions are “Yes”!

I know how deeply you are invested in these exceptional young people. We are invested in your students, too. Without question, we provide an education here that will create new possibilities, raise questions that matter, and prepare each graduate to take on this generation’s challenges.

We will take care of them and help them to grow.

The support of our students – as people, maturing to meet their commitments, as well as leaders in their chosen professions—has been my concern from day one as President. Our dedication to championing our students was codified in The Rensselaer Plan over a decade ago, and, recently, we have refreshed that Plan and recommitted our community to its goals. The key support initiative within the Plan is Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students, or CLASS.  In this context, we are renewing our commitment to provide special support to your young people.

Our CLASS program is anchored in the First Year Experience, but it offers students of every year residential clusters (or Commons), live-in support from assistant deans and upperclassmen, and dedicated faculty Deans of the Commons, who are responsible for stimulating and conjoining the intellectual, cultural, and social lives of our students in our residential clusters.

I will speak more about CLASS tomorrow, but tonight I want to emphasize that CLASS provides multi-dimensional support that has succeeded in achieving a nearly perfect freshman first-to-second semester retention rate, a high overall graduation rate, and evokes very positive responses from students to surveys such as that conducted by The Princeton Review.

Your students face all the challenges of college life, plus an exceptionally rigorous curriculum, but they will not stand alone.

Now, students—what do I have to say to you? I look out at your faces, and I feel pride, joy, and… anticipation. The world you enter is very different from the one I faced. There are enormous concerns—providing food and clean water, caring for our environment, security, and more. You also will need to deal with unprecedented cultural change, driven by who you are, and driven by globalization and powerful new technologies. You have the opportunity to participate – indeed, to lead the way – in meeting the challenges we all face. You are the right ones to take on this responsibility, and you are about to make a pivotal choice in how you will prepare yourself and who will share your journey.

If you want a unique environment that challenges and nurtures you at the same time... If you like doing as well as understanding... If you want to master your own field and collaborate with people in other disciplines... If you are determined to take on the questions that have the biggest, most important answers... then Rensselaer is the right place for you.

Our alumni/ae engineered canals and bridges and railroads around the world, and they helped bring us to the Moon. Our faculty and students are reshaping matter at the atomic scale through nanotechnology, and they are discovering the patterns and possibilities of future versions of the Web. We take our motto, “Why not change the world?” as a directive, and you will be given the guidance and opportunities you need to become leaders.

I hope you will join us at Rensselaer. Bring us your talent and your commitment. Share your knowledge with us, but inspire us with your passion, too. Provide our community with your unique perspectives, experiences, and values, and we will help you develop as scholars, athletes, and caring people.

I welcome you to Rensselaer, and I look forward to all you have to offer.

Thank you.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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