Jackson addresses Senate

At the Student Senate’s meeting last week, President Shirley Ann Jackson spoke to the Senators regarding the state of the Institute. During her presentation, issues such as languages, the Class of 2014, and the Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students initiative were discussed.

Jackson began the evening speaking about the 10th anniversary of The Rensselaer Plan, detailing the diversity that the plan has added to the Institute through the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, and the East Campus Athletic Village.

The CLASS initiative was the next topic discussed. Jackson announced that this initiative will bring a residential commons model to Rensselaer, allowing for leadership, development, and growth opportunities for students. As part of the new model, students will be grouped based on interests and residential clusters (such as the current Vashuda), as well as time-based clustered. The time-based clusters will include the Sophomore-Year Experience, in which all sophomore students will be required to live on campus or with fraternities and sororities that sign on to the Institute’s Greek Commons Agreement, released to the greek community last week. As part of this new initiative, each class will also have a dean that follows the class from sophomore year until the time that they graduate.

Another part of the CLASS initiative is allowing students to participate in overseas experiences. These experiences can either take the form of a semester abroad at an affiliated program, a faculty-led trip during winter or summer break, or potentially an international co-op or internship. Plans are also being evaluated to create an office for the international experience.

Potential members of the Class of 2014 have also started submitting applications. In the past 10 years, applications have increased 135 percent, and the number of applicants this year have again seen an increase, with a 10 percent rise in Early Decision applications.

Also discussed by Jackson was the fate of the language program at the Institute. Although the traditional method will not be seeing a return, Jackson informed Senators that the administration is working on making the approach to learning languages unique to the Institute. This approach will incorporate various ideas from other programs from places like West Point, as well as create a Center for the Study of Cognition, Communication, and Culture.

Last on the slated discussion was the topic of the H1N1 virus. Jackson was pleased that the Institute has done such a good job at controlling the spread of the virus compared to other universities and that RPI has been able to avoid an explosive outbreak. Rensselear recently gave out the first round of H1N1 vaccines, and the Health Center is expecting more to be delivered.

During the Q&A session with the Senate, various construction projects were discussed. A multi-year project will begin in the spring aimed to repair and improve the CII, in addition to plans for a new science center (although fundraising needs to be started for the project). The administration is looking to strengthen financial aid as well as start planning the next capital campaign, with a goal larger than the recently-completed $1.4 billion campaign.

Also of note, the administration said the process of room selections for next year will be altered as a result of the CLASS initiative and the process will likely be moved to an earlier date.

Following the presentation and discussion, the Senate concluded their meeting by discussing various committee activity in addition to the “Just Ask” campaign started earlier this year.