President Shirley Ann Jackson held her annual Fall Town Hall Meeting this past Wednesday, October 24. The meeting was held in the theater of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Preforming Arts Center, and featured Jackson speaking on many developments and achievements in the institute over the past year.
The meeting was opened by Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations William Walker, who handed the microphone over to Jackson immediately. Jackson began the meeting by showing a clip from the Today Show on NBC that aired recently, hailing RPI as one of the leading places of study for career-minded students. With this as an example, she said that it was clear that RPI has qualities that are both valued and sought after in the world today. She went on to say that The Rensselaer Plan has assisted this by systematically expanding the Institute’s capabilities.
Jackson stated that the times have changed significantly since The Rensselaer Plan was made, and with them the technical capabilities of the Institute and world at large. She went on to say that the refresh of The Plan which has been going on in recent weeks is aimed at taking these advances into account for the future. She also said that during Homecoming Weekend and Alumni Weekend she met many alumni who were excited by what they saw of the Institute, both by what it is doing and where it is heading.
After Jackson finished up the opening, she recognized and thanked the Institute’s VPs as well as her husband, who was present. She also recognized the most recent recipient of the Pillar of Rensselaer award, Jackie Ellsworth, touting her accomplishments over her time spent working for the Institute.
Following this, she went over some of RPI’s recruitment figures, which are the highest they have ever been. Jackson said that the institute received over 15,000 applications this past year, and of the applicants accepted, the average SAT scores have improved to the highest mark yet. Jackson also stated that applications to join RPI’s graduate program have increased, and over 500 new graduate students were accepted this past year.
Jackson went on to say that with the Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students, the Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond, and the First Year Experience programs, first to second year student retention is near perfect, and that with the new City Station housing for graduate students, CLASS is now expanding to also help the graduate student community.
Jackson also said that The Rensselaer Plan has opened up and made possible new efforts in the realm of research. Jackson stated that RPI is now stretching boundaries by combining the fields of science, engineering, design, and the arts. As examples she cited the human-computer interface projects and experiments being researched in EMPAC, as well as advances in lithium-ion battery technology. She also spoke about new approaches to research at RPI, such as advances Institute researchers have made towards Alzheimer’s disease, namely approaching the problem simultaneously from the nano and macro scales.
Following this, she talked about advances RPI has made in terms of Institute media recognition, using the recent ranking RPI received from US News as an example. She also cited the presence of RPI alumni at the high-profile landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars.
Jackson then went over some of the history of The Rensselaer Plan, speaking to the success of its fundraising as well as what was done with that money. She cited the construction of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, EMPAC, and RPI’s supercomputer. She also brought up the new constellation research initiatives.
Jackson finished her speech by talking about how the plan was intended to evolve RPI’s curriculum, research, and planning for the future. She spoke to how the plan is currently an evolving process, and that it is revisited and revised constantly through the performance planning process. She also spoke briefly on how individuals can find their own place within The Plan.
Following this, there were a few questions asked by audience members. Online or distance education was addressed, as well as the role that the Hartford Campus plays in that. Foreign language studies were also brought up, with the recent experimental Mandarin class. Connectivity with the City of Troy was also under discussion.