My View

VP of Student Life elucidates RPI’s student services

With the dog days of summer behind us and the first week of the fall semester underway, it is exciting to be back on campus. I would like to take this opportunity to send a special welcome to the members of the Class of 2016 who have joined the upper class students in our Rensselaer family. The incoming class promises to be an exceptional group, poised to meet the high expectations we have for our students. All of us at the Institute wish you great success in your academic pursuits and truly hope that you have a satisfying and productive time at Rensselaer that will lead to your continued intellectual and personal growth.

I am pleased to provide an update on the activities that the Division of Student Life worked on during the summer, as well as highlights related to upcoming programs and events.

Our Student Life model for Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students has continued to evolve. CLASS represents our residential college model that enables our community to extend exciting programming, as well as academic and personal support, to students.

Initially located in other areas on campus, the Advising & Learning Assistance Center and the Office of International Programs will be moving to the fourth floor of Academy Hall. We have also created a Student Life Deans Suite that involved bringing deans from the Dean of Students Office, the Office of the Student Experience, and Residential Education together. Soon, students will have academic and advising support, international student services comprised of OIP and the International Services for Students and Scholars Office, disabilities support, and a full range of deans representing various offices under one roof.

Bringing ALAC and OIP which represent the Provost’s academic area together with our Student Life deans is our commitment to work across the Institute to provide the best possible service for our students. Our goal in making these significant changes was to ensure that Academy Hall would truly serve as “one-stop shopping” for students by integrating student services in a centralized location on campus. The overall move will be completed by the end of October and we hope that you will join us for the grand re-opening party!

Within Residence Education, we are making slight adjustments to the duties of our resident assistants. We want them to be more active in the life of their residence clusters and in their efforts to extend support to our first-year students. This change will help to prevent students’ problems from falling through the cracks. I had the honor of meeting with this year’s crop of RAs, and I believe that you will find them to be outstanding in every way.

The Offices of Administration and Student Life have also worked to increase upper-class housing on the east side of campus, specifically in Bryckwyck and Family RAHP B Apartments. This new area includes the creation of a multipurpose space where students, Student Life professionals, and other campus members can provide CLASS-based programming.

To respond to students’ desire to see different late night dining options, the Student Advisory Board and Sodexo worked together to make some changes. Beginning this fall, new dining options will be available in the Commons and the Rensselaer Union.

We are also working to improve the Pathways Initiative. Launched last semester, the program is designed to place Student Life professionals among students, providing students with an opportunity to have questions or concerns answered on the spot. This year, our new location will be at the Union.

We are also expanding the Tuesday Night Toolbox program to provide students with more opportunities to expand their intellectual skills and to smooth the transition to the high- powered learning environment at Rensselaer.

The last area of CLASS-based updates is related to diversity. John Killings was appointed as assistant director for Student Activities and Multicultural Affairs. This development promises to allow Rensselaer to evolve a diversity model that will enrich our CLASS initiative, enable us to respond to the varied needs of our student body, and further encourage your academic success through our commitment to excellence through diversity.

Continuing with our diversity theme, we have developed our CLASS-based model of education around Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning and broader diversity issues. To support this, all Student Life staff will complete Safe Zone training by the end of the fall semester. The program is designed to raise awareness and provide support to LGBTQ persons and encourage members of the campus community to become allies.

Lastly, I want to highlight several noteworthy events. The Institute is in the process of refreshing the Rensselaer Plan, our university’s overarching strategic plan. This refresh will take place throughout the fall semester and will require a great deal of community involvement. Shortly, community members will receive information on how to participate in discussions on the plan. Student Life will be organizing focused student interaction around the evolving document. Stay tuned.

Over the summer the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations upgraded the main IBM Blue Gene supercomputer system. We will be reaching out to students and the campus community as there will be an opportunity to help name the system later this fall.

Preparations are also under way for the launch of the new Center for Cognition, Communication, and Culture at Rensselaer this fall. The center will join researchers from across the Institute in research areas such as cross-modal displays, synthetic characters, and augmented reality.

On a lighter note, I encourage all of you to carve out some time to attend the various student activity fairs that are planned. On Wednesday, August 29, off-campus students or those who are thinking of living off-campus are invited to attend the Rensselaer Union Fair for off-campus students. The event will take place from noon–3 pm in the Union. The annual Rensselaer Union Activities Fair will be held on Thursday, August 30 from 6–9 pm. The event—featuring more than 225 student clubs and campus organizations—will be held in the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center. I am personally excited about all of the continuing changes we are making across the university, in an effort to provide you with the most rigorous of academic environments, as well as a meaningful student experience that is meant to provide the greatest overall educational value available. This promises to be a great year!