To the Editor:
A Student Senate resolution recently passed can be summarized as an attack on President Shirley Ann Jackson and her leadership style, ostensibly based on “personal accounts from students, faculty, staff, and administrators.” As the longest sitting vice president on Jackson’s Cabinet, a position I held when she became our president, I find it perplexing that my opinion of her leadership style was not sought. Then again, my opinion is known and would not support the language of the resolution. Jackson is an exacting, uncompromising, and relentless leader, which are the traits needed—and needed to be exercised constantly—to transform an institution. Early on in the president’s tenure, I learned to “do my homework” and to do it well, to enable decision making as we partnered on the financial aspects of The Rensselaer Plan’s execution. Her mentoring in that regard has resulted in tremendous professional growth for me. Unlike other Cabinet members and deans who have matured under the president’s tutelage and moved on to successful provost positions and presidencies elsewhere, I have elected to stay and put those skills to use in partnership with the president to see The Rensselaer Plan through to its successful execution. A constant thread in the fabric of our relationship over the past 10 years has been the president’s focus on student academic experiences and general well being. This focus has been evidenced through a change in the graduate support policy early on in the president’s tenure, a drive to hire faculty, residence hall renovations, East Campus Athletics Village construction, and her vision for Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students, to highlight several highly visible initiatives. What the campus does not see, because she is a private person, is Jackson’s deeply felt concern for a particular student or her reaching out to that student and/or that student’s family. I have seen that concern expressed. I know it is very strong and ongoing.
I cannot imagine another leader doing as much for Rensselaer as Jackson has done.
The criticism I have seen this fall has been anonymous and amorphous. For the record, I would like to state my profound professional and personal regard for Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson.
Virginia C. Gregg
Vice President for Finance & Chief Financial Officer