Unlimited Opportunities: 2009 State of the Institute
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
EMPAC Concert Hall
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Friday, October 2, 2009
Good afternoon. Welcome home to Rensselaer. We are so glad to have you back at the first Alumni Reunion combined with Homecoming Weekend and to which we have added the Grand Opening of the East Campus Athletic Village.
As I begin, please join me in thanking Carrie Eckart, Rensselaer Class of 1985, for her dedicated service to the Rensselaer Alumni Association, and to Rensselaer, as RAA President. Thank you, Carrie, for all you have done. I look forward to collaborating with Stu Benton, Rensselaer Class of 1962, the new RAA President.
As we begin, let us take a moment to remember those Rensselaer family members who are not with us today.
As you probably know, we lost Myles Brand, Rensselaer Class of ‘64, two weeks ago. He was a Rensselaer Trustee, a national leader in the worlds of academe and college athletics, a loyal son and devoted friend of Rensselaer, and one of our great heroes.
Let us, also, to be mindful of the Rensselaer men and women serving in our armed forces, particularly those in harm’s way, and those who have died or have been injured while serving our nation.
The video you have just seen suggests the Rensselaer story. It is my privilege, now, to report the State of the Institute 2009 to give you a more complete picture.
Today, Rensselaer maintains the excellence you knew its rigor, its legacy, its tradition. Today, Rensselaer has breadth, depth, scope, nuance, and reach. Today, Rensselaer offers a technologically rooted education for leadership, for discovery, for innovation, and for the evolving an education for the constancy of change.
Today, Rensselaer is guided by the vision I outlined at my inauguration 10 years ago. We animated that vision in The Rensselaer Plan, and, in 2004, committed to the Renaissance at Rensselaer, the Campaign for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. We deliberately set our goal $1.4 billion beyond past goals, and well beyond the goals of a number of comparable universities. We did this to extend Rensselaer leadership in technologically rooted education and research.
We reached and, indeed, surpassed our goal nine months ahead of schedule, almost exactly a year ago.
During this past decade, we have worked to assure the academic scope, strength, and relevance of the Institute, the robustness of its research, the elevation of the student experience, its administrative consistency and financial viability, the expansion, maintenance, and management of its physical plant, the expansion of its partnerships, and its ever-greater prominence.
As we move forward, we draw strength from two essential Rensselaer roots. The first, written into the Institute’s founding documents, is “…the application of science to the common purposes of life.”
Although our first alumni and alumnae changed the world by building 19th and 20th century infrastructure, here and around the world, today’s “common purposes” encompass the global challenges of sustainable energy, worldwide pandemic, water purity, environmental sustainability, food scarcity, and the social needs that contribute to human suffering, and breed unrest and extremism.
The second root, also integral to our founding mission, is the employment of unique educational strategies for engaged interactive, self-directed learning. Revolutionary learning methodologies continue to find primacy at Rensselaer. We make our course work and experiences deliberately global in outlook, intellectually rigorous and sophisticated, and socially nuanced creating an environment that promotes powerful, mind-opening new experiences, which foster intellectual agility.
These historic roots are imminently relevant today, and still nourish the distinctive character and mission that make a Rensselaer education unique. In short, we continue to change the world.
The 2009-2010 academic year marks an auspicious moment in Rensselaer history, as we celebrate a full decade of accomplishments which commenced with the launch of The Rensselaer Plan during my first year as President. Our achievements continue to flourish as we attain and exceed The Rensselaer Plan commitments.
During these ten years, we set in place four transformative platforms to anchor, to animate, and to nurture Rensselaer education, to undergird its research, and the student living/learning environment. Three of these platforms invigorate research, scholarship, and learning. They are the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), and the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) this magnificent new venue in which you are sitting, that we inaugurated a year ago.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the opening of the fourth the East Campus Athletic Village (ECAV) a stellar complex that expands the Rensselaer experience for our scholar athletes, for all students, and for the greater Rensselaer community.
While these four platforms are the most visible aspects of our transformation, we have attended to virtually every facet of Institute life. I often describe our progress in terms of people, programs, and platforms. While these categories are still relevant, today, I would like to offer a more integrated picture.
I begin with a few data points that embody our decade of achievement.
- Our students are better prepared than ever. Average SAT scores have risen year upon year with the 25th to 75th percentile scores, on the main two parts of the exam, reaching 1270 to 1450. Ten years ago, the range was 1180 to 1370.
- Garnering top students is a direct result of the rising numbers of applications 12,352 this year up by 135 percent from ten years ago. In fact, our applications were 5,264 in 1999, and as recently as 2005 we had 5,574.
- Student diversity has increased. In 1999, underrepresented minorities represented 8 percent of the freshman class. Today, it is 12 percent, a 50 percent increase. Women, in 1999, represented 22 percent of the freshman class. Today, that number has risen to 31 percent.
- The wide-ranging interests of our increasingly diverse student body are reflected in the number of clubs associated with the Union. Currently, there are 175 clubs. In 2000, there were 110.
- The student-to-faculty ratio, institutionally, has declined from 18:1 in 1999, to the current 14:1 overall, and to 11:1 for undergraduates.
- Retention rates improve yearly. A key measure the Freshmen-to-Sophomore retention rate reached 95 percent for 2008-09 Academic Year.
- Ten years ago, we had 327 tenured and tenure/track faculty. As we begin the 2009-2010 academic year, we have 356 tenured and tenure/track faculty. This year and next year, we expect to recruit another 40 tenure-line faculty, including eight constellation faculty.
All signs point to these ten-year trends continuing.
RISING STATURE and RECOGNITION
Our decade of endeavor has drawn continuing indicators of excellence, and of growing outside respect for Rensselaer lifting Rensselaer in the rankings “sweepstakes.”
For the 10th year in a row, Rensselaer is named among the top 50 universities, according to the closely watched U.S. News & World Report list of “America’s Best Colleges.” The Institute is ranked 42nd, up from about 50 a decade ago, and Rensselaer education is given top marks for quality and affordability.
Our undergraduate engineering program continues in the top 25.
Similarly, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rensselaer graduate programs in engineering, fine arts, and computer science, among the best in its graduate school guide. Six of our Rensselaer engineering programs are ranked among the top 25 aerospace engineering (19th), electrical engineering (20th), industrial engineering (21st), materials science and engineering (21st), mechanical engineering (22nd), and nuclear engineering (15th). We have a unique program. Our Master of Fine Arts in multimedia/visual communications ranked 6th on the U.S. News & World Report ratings, while the Rensselaer computer science doctoral program was among the top 50. It ranks the Lally School of Management and Technology 27th in Entrepreneurship, and the School is named among the top international business schools.
Business Week, in fact, ranks us 36th among the top undergraduate business programs. It placed 21st for academic quality (. . . tied with Cornell). The Business Week Specialty Rankings placed the Lally School 7th in Ethics, 7th in Calculus, 9th in Sustainability, and 12th in Quantitative Methods.
Further, Forbes ranked Rensselaer graduates among the top earners in the country when compared with other university graduates.
But, the judgments that matter the most are those made by talented, well-informed prospective students, so we are gratified that so many are choosing a Rensselaer education to build their futures.
CLASS OF 2009
Speaking of the future, at the 203rd Commencement last May, we awarded 1,147 bachelor’s degrees, 621 master’s degrees, and 166 doctoral degrees. This includes Rensselaer at Hartford. Scholarship was front and center, with 16 bachelor’s degree graduates, and 58 masters or doctoral graduates, earning perfect 4.0 grade-point averages. Acclaimed futurist, entrepreneur, and Rensselaer alumnus Peter Schwartz ’68 delivered the Commencement address.
We awarded honorary doctorates to Dr. Schwartz ’68, to Samuel Josefowitz ’42, an entrepreneur, chemical engineer, and prominent art expert and collector, to Kenneth Chenault, a groundbreaking global business leader and mentor and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the American Express Company, and to Robert Richardson, Nobel Prize winning physicist (1996), and the F.R. Newman Professor of Physics and Vice Provost for Research, Emeritus at Cornell University.
The evening before Commencement, the Rensselaer community convened here at EMPAC for an enlightening discussion during our traditional President’s Commencement Colloquy, in which our honorands shared their insights on taking “The Long View: Leading and Thriving in Challenging Times.”
CLASS of 2013
In late August, we welcomed our newest class the Class of 2013 1,337 freshmen. They are a gifted and diverse class, from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 65 are citizens of countries other than the U.S.
Eighty were valedictorian or salutatorian of their graduating classes; 87 had perfect 800 SAT verbal or mathematics scores; 62 percent made the top 10 percent of their high school classes; 231 won the Rensselaer Medal; and 100 are legacies again affirming that talent is attracted to the unlimited possibilities of a Rensselaer education.
More than half of our entering freshmen participated in high school sports activities. So, it is well that we are opening the East Campus Athletic Village and, may I say our students are very enthusiastic about it!
Rensselaer, also, has joined the national effort to make new resources available to military veterans and their dependents to attend college. And, this year, ten military veterans are enrolled under the new Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
We have attracted world-class faculty, as well, and a stellar leadership team. Allow me to introduce our newest leaders (I ask them to stand as I introduce them):
- Dr. Francine Berman, a high-performance computing scholar with extensive experience in research, teaching, and academic leadership, joined us August 1st as Vice President for Research. Dr. Berman was the High Performance Computing Endowed Chair in the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
- Dr. Paul P. Marthers also joined us August 1st, as the new Vice President for Enrollment. With more than twenty years of experience in higher and secondary education, including admissions work at Oberlin, Vassar, Bennington, and Boston colleges, and Duke University, Dr. Marthers comes to us, most recently, from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where he was Dean of Admissions.
- Dr. David Rosowsky joined Rensselaer as Dean of Engineering in July. Dr. Rosowsky most recently was Professor and Head of the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University, where he held the A.P. and Florence Wiley Chair in Civil Engineering. His research involves structural reliability, probabilistic modeling of structural and environmental loads, and probability-based design.
- Mr. Evan Douglis is our new Dean of Architecture. He comes to us from Pratt Institute, where he was Chair of the Undergraduate School of Architecture, and before that, he was on the faculty of Columbia University, the Director of the Columbia University Architecture Galleries, and a Visiting Professor at The Cooper Union.
- Finally, Professor Wayne Gray, of the Cognitive Science Department, is the new Acting Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
Please join me in welcoming the newest members of our leadership team.
Let me introduce the balance of the leadership team.
- Robert Palazzo, Provost
- Charles Carletta, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel
- Laban Coblentz, Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for Policy and Planning
- Virginia Gregg, Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer
- John Kolb ’79, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer
- Eddie Ade Knowles, Vice President, Student Life
- John Minasian, Vice President and Dean, Rensselaer Hartford Campus
- Curtis Powell, Vice President, Human Resources
- Claude Rounds, Vice President, Administration
- Robert Schlesinger, Vice President, Institute Advancement
- William Walker, Vice President, Strategic Communications and External Relations
- Walé Adeosun, Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer
- David A. Gautschi, Lally School of Management & Technology
- David Spooner, Science (Acting)
And, I would like to ask our Board of Trustees to rise and be recognized, as well.
FACULTY and RESEARCH
Rensselaer on the rise, with bright, talented students, and strong, committed leadership, sustains an exceptionally gifted professoriate the very heart of educational excellence, and academic and scientific rigor.
As I have said many times over, research and teaching are the clasped hands of education especially at a great technological research university. Working closely with faculty on leading-edge research gives Rensselaer undergraduates invaluable opportunity to apply and reinforce classroom learning, to expand their experiences, and to model their own careers by example and mentoring. It, also, allows us to attract and to educate talented graduate students from across the nation, and from around the world.
Rensselaer research encompasses a broad scope. We have made particular investments in five signature thrusts biotechnology and the life sciences; computational science and engineering; experimental media and the arts; energy and the environment; and nanotechnology and advanced materials.
A generous donation by Rensselaer Trustee and alumnus Thomas R. Baruch ’60 helped to launch the Center for Biochemical Solar Energy Research, devoted to bio-energy. The work of this unprecedented Center seeks to develop the next generation of solar technology by studying the energy-converting power of living plants, and it puts Rensselaer on the leading edge of energy research.
Just a year ago, we launched the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center. This is the first National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center led by Rensselaer, and the only NSF Engineering Research Center in New York State. The researchers in this Center are developing light emitting technologies which enable revolutionary new systems. Initial applications will focus on rapid diagnostic bio-imaging, new optical display systems, safer transportation systems, and novel modes of communication.
Last November, we announced the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (or CASE), a collaboration between the Rensselaer School of Architecture and the venerable architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). Located in New York City, on Wall Street, CASE is bringing together architects, engineers, and scientists, and innovating systems and materials to shift building performance toward sustainable and energy self-sufficient models, bridging between leading-edge architectural design and technological experimentation. The Rensselaer School of Architecture is framing its Built Ecologies graduate program around this initiative.
Also, last fall, we opened the New York Center for Astrobiology supported by a five-year $6.7 million NASA grant. The Center is analyzing the wealth of data on the structure and chemical composition of the cosmos, collected over many NASA missions.
The Army Research Laboratory has awarded a very significant grant to Rensselaer to create a major research center in Network Science. As the lead university, Rensselaer will collaborate with leading research universities around the country, and a global technology corporation. Professor Bolek Szymanski, the Claire & Roland Schmitt Distinguished Prof. of Computer Science, will lead the project.
With new national focus on science and innovation, and the doubling of basic research funds in the federal budget, Rensselaer has received several substantial research grants.
More than $4.8 million came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), granted competitively through the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Rensselaer, to date, has received 19 such grants to advance ongoing research programs, begin new research programs, hire researchers, support graduate students, and purchase instruments and equipment.
A six-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will allow researchers at Rensselaer to investigate how different civil infrastructures within a city or county such as roadways, water and power utilities, hospitals, banks, or law enforcement interact with each other and with the natural environment after a disaster, enabling emergency officials to formulate better plans for dealing with and mitigating the effects of disasters.
The New York State stem cell initiative granted $1.08 million to two Rensselaer research groups to fund research on the growth and development of stem cells, and to provide insights into the role specific genes and biological molecules play in stem cell function in the human body.
These vibrant research centers, and other major awards, afford additional focus and resources to the constellations of superstars we have in key research areas. Our biotechnology constellations encompass biocatalysis and metabolic engineering, computational biology and biocomputation, systems biology, and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Other constellations encompass computational science and engineering; pervasive computing and distributed intelligent systems (in particular the Tetherless World); physics, information technology, and entrepreneurship; and advanced materials and devices (Future Chips).
Perhaps the best articulation of the quality of the Rensselaer professoriate rests in their actual discoveries and their on-going research endeavors. To even give you a sampling, I can only summarize.
Rensselaer researchers have successfully unraveled the source of contamination of the blood-thinner heparin, while bioengineering a synthetic alternative; they have developed the darkest material created by humankind; they have synthesized a unique, flexible paper battery; they have made great steps forward in green LEDs; they are able to control of the nature of graphene for future graphene-based nanoelectronics; they have modeled the causes of the New Orleans levee failures after Hurricane Katrina; they have developed a way to seek out dangerous proteins such as anthrax toxin, and render them harmless using nothing but light; they are modeling Generation IV nuclear reactors to boost the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants; and our researchers are creating a new laboratory to develop and test next-generation radar systems.
Research at Rensselaer has even created nanosculpture that could enhance new heat pumps and energy converters. It has uncovered small deletions in the genomes of children with autism that strongly correlate to brain function, offering clues to the elusive origins of this distressing and mystifying condition. And, experimental flow measurement techniques, developed here, at Rensselaer, boosted the performance of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The increased pace and importance of research at Rensselaer have brought us further recognition and growing opportunity. Last month, five Rensselaer researchers presented at the World Economic Forum “Summer Davos” Meeting in Dalian, China. Only five universities were invited. The meeting drew a thousand of the world’s most promising innovators, businesses leaders, and government officials to learn firsthand about the leading-edge research, trends, and ideas taking shape in the world’s most advanced academic laboratories.
Our team presented ideas on how innovative research and education can lead the world into a new era of health, prosperity, connectivity, and high technology, culminating with an “IdeasLab” on innovative engineering. The Rensselaer contingent included:
- Professor Robert Hull Henry Burlage Jr. Professor of Engineering and Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering;
- Professor Shawn-Yu Lin Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy and Senior Constellation Professor of the Future Chips constellation;
- Professor Anna Dyson Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE);
- Professor Jonathan Dordick, who led the team, the Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS); and
- Professor James Hendler Senior Constellation Professor of the Tetherless World Research Constellation and Assistant Dean for Information Technology.
These are only a few examples of our research, and we expect these trends to continue.
A university, of course, about is more than academics and research, as important as they are. A university incorporates a stimulating overall intellectual environment where ideas are expressed and challenged, where contemporary events are examined, where the mind is enlarged through discourse and diversity. Intellectual life at Rensselaer incorporates international activity, Communiversity, and efforts to increase diversity, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
As our global reach and global impact expand exponentially, international study will become a defining aspect of the undergraduate experience at Rensselaer. To this end, we have launched REACH (Rensselaer Education Across Cultural Horizons), which builds on our long-standing Architecture international programs in Italy, China, and India. We, now, have exchange agreements in 12 countries with more than 18 institutions, and, in addition to the faculty team that went to the “Summer Davos” Meeting in China, international educational and research exchange is burgeoning.
Rensselaer engineering undergraduates and faculty spent an intensive week in Pune, India, with students and faculty from the Pune College of Engineering, and the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, as part of the first Indo-U.S. Research Academy. The program brought together students and faculty experts focused on multidisciplinary challenges facing engineers and researchers of every nation.
The Rensselaer Schools of Management and Technology, Architecture, Engineering, and Rensselaer at Hartford have similar exchange partnerships, and host many international delegations.
Last spring, I led a Rensselaer delegation to explore collaborations in South Africa and Ghana, where we discussed capacity-building opportunities and exchanges in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Rensselaer will bring its hallmark experiential learning programs to these universities through cooperative student projects, student exchanges, and research initiatives for faculty and administrators. A $1.25 million gift, from Rensselaer alumnus Sean O’Sullivan ’85, provides initial funding to assist the Institute to build engineering and science partnerships with key African universities, while promoting cross-cultural communication and cooperation. This is in keeping with our commitment, under the Clinton Global Initiative, to partner with African institutions. These activities, also, enhance the Rensselaer “REACH” program, which ultimately will require all undergraduate students to have an international experience as a requirement for graduation.
We all know that enhancing campus discourse on a broad range of topics challenges the mind. We have been challenged by broad-ranging presentations from such individuals as Marshall N. Carter, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Group and deputy chairman of its parent company NYSE Euronext, to ESPN Radio and TV personality Mike Greenberg, to A.P. “Preetham” Parigi, managing director, Entertainment Network (India) Limited, to World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, and political leaders including Governor David Patterson, Congressman Paul Tonko, both of New York, and Connecticut Congressman John B. Larson, to political and policy debates during last year’s national presidential campaign.
Now, I must tell you that sustainability has taken hold at Rensselaer. Student interest in this arena prompted a 27-hour continuous Sustainability Charrette, sponsored by the Office of the President, and hosted by the Student Sustainability Task Force (SSTF) and the School of Architecture. The charrette drew students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni/ae to discuss ideas for improving sustainability at Rensselaer. We are evaluating, and acting on, the ideas it generated.
Intellectual dialogue encompasses the arts, as well. EMPAC and other venues have hosted a breathtaking array of artists from celebrated trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and renowned musician Béla Fleck, to the Japanese group Boredom’s sound collages, to new works by Bang-on-a-Can co-founder David Lang and everything in between.
Communiversity and STEM
We continue to expand outreach and special programs to our neighbors in the City of Troy, to the Capital Region, and to the whole of New York State.
Rensselaer hosted a “progressive dialogue,” funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on ways to improve K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in New York state.
A National Science Foundation grant placed Rensselaer science and engineering graduate students in high school classrooms across New York’s Capital Region, to bring cutting-edge research and advanced scientific concepts and emerging technologies to local school districts.
And, in keeping with the opening of EMPAC, Rensselaer helped to reinstate the Troy elementary school string instrument program dormant for 40 years! We hosted summer science camps for elementary, middle, and high school students from the Capital Region and beyond, and learning sessions for high school teachers from around the Capital Region to infuse cutting-edge nanoscience concepts into their classes.
Rensselaer campus life is transforming into a residential college model for undergraduateswithin a great technological research university. In the Clustered Learning, Advocacy and Support for Students Initiative or “CLASS,” which involves both residential and time-based clustering, clusters of residence halls or “Commons” are supported by Faculty Deans of the Commons (who will live near the campus in our houses), and will have live-in commons deans (who are student life professionals), as well as upperclass and graduate student assistants living in the residence hall clusters. The residential program elevates the quality of support for undergraduates, providing them with a greater sense of community and belonging, and ensuring that every student receives the best counseling, mentoring, and personal attention possible.
Similarly, we are extending our award-winning First-Year Experience, to phase in a Sophomore Year Experience, in which all sophomores (beginning with the class entering this fall) will live on the Troy campus, or in fraternities or sororities that meet stringent university standards, and that have signed a Greek Commons Agreement with the Institute.
In addition, as part of CLASS, we are creating Class Deans, who will take over each rising sophomore class from the Dean of the First Year Experience. The Class Dean will work with that class until it graduates. The focus will be on leadership experiences, mentoring, counseling, learning assistance, career planning, and social and cultural activities. In short, the Class Deans will be advocates for each class, and will be the connectors and facilitators for each class with all parts of the Institute and beyond. They will partner with the Dean of Undergraduate Education, the Faculty Deans of the Commons, the live-in commons deans, the Dean of Students, and others, to transform the student experience.
Two new residence halls offer expanded living options under the CLASS initiative. Blitman Commons, at the foot of The Approach, offers primarily juniors and seniors the opportunity to live in downtown Troy. The new Polytechnic Apartments, at Congress and 15th Street, is another close-to-campus option for upperclass students.
All universities have become much more safety and security conscious. We have installed a system to convey critical safety information during an emergency. RPIAlert provides emergency information via text, e-mail, and voice mail messages to cell phones, office phones, and to a new Web site [http://alert.rpi.edu]. An audible alert provides siren and verbal messages over loudspeakers on the Troy campus.
We have taken steps to deal with an outbreak of the H1N1 virus here at Rensselaer focused on student care. We, also, have developed business continuity plans, should the Institute have to close for a pandemic, or any other emergency.
On a brighter note, beloved campus traditions are returning:
- The carillon is back! the gift of the Rensselaer Class of 2008;
- Winter Carnival has been resurrected. I believe you called it Saturnalia;
- I am told that Alby, the albino squirrel, has returned;
- And, we have revived the Hockey Line.
And new traditions are surfacing:
- A Rensselaer student organization Terra Café offers a weekly selection of local and organic meals;
- We have a Commencement Colloquy each year with honorary degree candidates;
- And, we have a Commencement Picnic each year for all graduates and their families.
Rensselaer fraternities, sororities, clubs, and student groups prompt a great deal of neighborhood goodwill through their community service efforts. Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), for example, was recognized by the City of Troy for community service during Earth Day, when members removed trees, brush, and debris from the Old Mount Ida Cemetery and Kinloch Park areas. The Rensselaer SAE Chapter received the national fraternity’s Minerva Award for “Community Relations” which recognizes chapters that embody the organization’s “True Gentleman Initiative,” and cited their decade-long effort to practice good community relations.
Members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity (Pikes), with assistance from other Greek life organizations, hosted two annual fall celebration events for local elementary schoolchildren and individuals dealing with multiple sclerosis. The Pikes and sorority members of Alpha Gamma Delta and Pi Beta Phi helped 400 Troy elementary school students get a head start on the holidays through the “Pikes Presents” gift initiative.
Finally, I would personally like to salute the Rensselaer Student Senate which cleaned up the Rensselaer “Mini” Approach on Peoples Avenue. These things demonstrated the true meaning of school spirit.
I have saved the special for the last.
Tomorrow, we dedicate the East Campus Athletic Village (ECAV) the new Rensselaer athletic facilities and fields.
Media reviews have raved, calling ECAV “the Rensselaer Field of Dreams,” the “stadium with a ‘major league’ feel,” a “multi-sport palace.” All acknowledge that the new Rensselaer facilities have no rivals within striking distance.
The Engineers christened the new stadium, last month, with a governing 28-to-0 football win over Endicott College on September 12, and another over Utica College the next week. Thank you, Engineers, and thank you, Coach King!
Certainly, the facilities deserve high marks. They offer fields, gymnasiums, and extensive amenities for varsity men’s and women’s athletics, club sports, intramurals, and recreational activities. State-of-the-art facilities include a full complement of meeting and conference rooms; strength, conditioning, and locker facilities; sports medicine and therapy units; a Jumbotron scoreboard with replay capability, an Athletic Hall of Fame, and a café and refreshment bar.
The ECAV Stadium retains the feeling of intimate connection between teams and spectators that we remember from our beloved ’86 Field, which, now, is “retired” to become a campus open green space and park with its history and its memories intact.
ECAV takes Rensselaer to the “next level,” and creates a new era for us. As many have remarked, “the whole experience is first class.”
And, in honor of ECAV opening, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the new Rensselaer Athletics “marks.” Henceforth, we will have one unified name for our teams the Engineers which, as most of you know, has been a part of Rensselaer Athletics for years.
I hope all of you will join us, tomorrow, for the official launch of the East Campus Athletic Village.
With a decade of transformation behind us, with four new stellar facilities on-line, with new residence halls, with extensive upgrades and enhancements throughout the campus(es), with brilliant students, star faculty, excellent staff and leadership, with renewed acclaim, and with new challenges and opportunities opening before us, how do we characterize Rensselaer?
I answer with three quick stories.
The first story involves two Rensselaer students from the Class of 2007 Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre. Mr. Bayer created an organic insulation using waste agricultural materials, water, and mushrooms. The substance is created by pouring a mixture of insulating particles and nutrients into a panel enclosure, and injecting it with mushroom cells, which digest the nutrients, producing a tightly meshed network of insulating particles and mycelium. The result is an organic composite board that has a competitive R-Value, can serve as a firewall, and could replace traditional inorganic foam insulation in homes and in packaging.
Eben teamed with classmate Gavin McIntyre to form Ecovative Design LLC to commercialize their organic insulation technology, called Greensulate. The work creates an entirely new paradigm in which composite materials are literally grown, harnessing the incredible efficiency of nature and illustrates where a Rensselaer education can lead.
The innovation won numerous awards and development grants, including $750,000 from the PICNIC Green Challenge in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a Dutch competition to help fight global warming.
The second story concerns the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland perhaps THE most high-powered assembly of global thought leaders, influential opinion generators, corporate CEOs, and government officials. Two years ago, I was invited to participate in the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) a select group to which the WEF invites the top global universities Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Oxford, Cambridge, INSEAD, Tsinghua University, and the Indian Institutes of Technology. It was made clear, at that time, that Rensselaer was not part of this exclusive club. Rather, my invitation was as a “topical expert” in energy security, nuclear safety, and nuclear nonproliferation and governance.
However, while there, I discussed Rensselaer scientific breakthroughs, energy contributions, and unique pedagogy which intrigued several WEF/GULF leaders.
. . . and, when Rensselaer is showcased . . . things change. . . .
Top World Economic Forum leaders visited Rensselaer last winter, and were as they say “blown away” by the quality of what they found.
The result was the invitation to send a Rensselaer delegation to the “Summer Davos” meeting last month in Dalian, China the trip I described earlier. Rensselaer was showcased there with M.I.T., Tokyo and Keio universities (Japan), and Oxford University.
The third story arrived in the form of a thank you letter from an executive at Medtronic, a leading medical device maker. Some of you know that I serve on the Medtronic Board of Directors. The letter thanked Rensselaer for hosting a campus visit by senior-level Medtronic officers. These officials came away from the visit with a dozen specific ideas for research undertakings with Rensselaer among them our work in heparin, our work in anti-bacterial coatings, collaboration with the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) supercomputer to facilitate remote patient monitoring, and with our work in Semantic Networks.
This executive, as well, was “blown away” by the unlimited potential of EMPAC.
So, why do I cite these illustrations?
Because they illustrate the unlimited opportunities that lie before us. Because they illustrate a Rensselaer evolving and transforming before our eyes. And, because they illustrate that our historic roots lie deep and vibrant, giving sustenance to a new Rensselaer which is offering traditionally unique technologically rooted, rigorous education, in distinctive, modernized ways to new generations of discoverers, explorers, inventors, innovators, and global leaders; to a Rensselaer that is truly “changing the world.”
Thank you. I am pleased to answer your questions.
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.