President releases first draft of Plan

On Monday, October 1, President Shirley Ann Jackson announced that the first draft of the updated Rensselaer Plan could be viewed by the Rensselaer community. The draft was completed by the “writing team,” and has already been reviewed once by the Deans Council.

The original Rensselaer Plan was developed in 1999 and 2000 and has served as the backbone of the administration’s actions and decisions over the past 12 years. However, it was decided that the Plan should be revised, or “refreshed,” according to Jackson. With the first draft having been completed, the Reassessment Leadership Committee—known as ReaLCom 2.0—will lead discussions with multiple groups, ranging from student leaders to alumni, regarding the proposed revisions.

While most of the changes are purely clerical, such as changing numbers to match the year 2012, as opposed to 2000, several subsections have been added to the Plan, and a few have been altered or removed.

The first section of the Plan is titled “The Goal,” and outlines the goals of the document. In reference to the purpose of the Plan, the writing team added a quote by Nobel Laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgi stating that “discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Additionally, three subsections were added. The first, titled “Intellectual congruence leads to excellent education,” explains that the administration will strive to improve the student learning environment and “provide a residential education environment.” The second, titled “Global challenges lead to transformational education,” refers to the issues that society is currently facing, which Jackson has labeled, on multiple occasions, “global challenges.” The third emphasizes a continued increase in diversity among the Rensselaer community.

Statistics listed in the second section, “Fundamentals,” were updated to match current figures. Numbers relating to research funding was taken out of this section and placed in a later one. The writing team also added a subsection titled “Accomplishments under The Rensselaer Plan, 2000-2012.”

This subsection listed the degrees which have been added to RPI’s portfolio of majors since 2000, including Cognitive Science; Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences; Design, Innovation, and Society; and Sustainability Studies. Rensselaer’s co-terminal program was also created over the last 12 years, as well as an MBA in Law, which was developed in conjunction with Albany Law School. Entrepreneurship and a global outlook for classes and projects was also emphasized.

The “Accomplishments” subsection also had subsections. The first, “People: The Faculty,” described the changes in faculty since 2000. According to the Plan, 275 faculty members have been hired during this period of time, including 32 chairs and 12 constellation professors, and 53 of RPI’s faculty have received the National Science Foundation Career Award over the past 12 years. There are currently 346 tenure and tenure-track faculty members; of these individuals, 21 percent are women—an increase from 15 percent in 2000—and seven percent represent minorities, which is up by three percent from 2000.

In addition, the “Accomplishments” subsection expresses continued emphasis on diversity, listing statistics regarding increases in minority students and study abroad programs through RPI’s Rensselaer Education Across Cultural Horizons, which reaches across 22 institutions in 12 different countries.

According to the document, the Institute is also planning to start a fundraising campaign, similar to the Renaissance at Rensselaer Capital Campaign, which occurred in 2000 to fund the projects outlined in the original Rensselaer Plan. Future plans also include evolving the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students program.

One subsection, though, was completely removed from the Plan. Titled “Seamless student service” and located in the third section of the original Plan, the section explained that “the Institute is under an obligation to support students in managing the logistics of their education.” This includes providing assistance with classes, degree management, and counseling services.

Additional changes to the Rensselaer Plan include changes in structure, such as sections into others. It also went further in-depth regarding research at RPI and the goals for it. Specifically, the financial goal is to reach $200 million in research funding by 2024. The administration also hopes for further growth in the areas of biotechnology and the life sciences; computational sciences and engineering; media arts, science, and technology; energy, environment, and smart systems, and nanotechnology and advanced materials. The Plan also described RPI’s new goal as reaching “greater prominence as a top-tier world-class technological research university with global reach and global impact.”

A list of “discussion questions for ReaLCom 2.0 open sessions” was included with the first draft. Apparently, these will be used to guide discussion for the four sessions during which concerned individuals can contribute to the revision process. These sessions will occur from 2-3:30 pm on Wednesday, October 3; from 7-8 pm on Tuesday, October 9; from 2-3:30 pm on Wednesday, October 10; and from 10:30 am to 12 pm on Thursday, October 11 in the auditorium of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. For more information, members of the Rensselaer community and other concerned individuals can send their concerns to president@rpi.edu.

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