President talks Plan, progress

Discussion after presentation features no audience questions

On Wednesday, October 16, President Shirley Ann Jackson spoke at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center during RPI’s annual Fall Town Hall Meeting. Titled “Shared Joy in Individual Accomplishments,” the talk focused on RPI’s accomplishments over the course of the year.

Jackson began by explaining why the meeting was known as a town hall meeting. She said that it refers to town hall meetings that were held while the colonies of New England were a direct democracy. She added that, “It is even more like a town hall in that all members of the community have the opportunity to participate” by asking her questions. Jackson added that the meeting would also involve discussing “where we are headed as an institute.”

She went on to recognize her leadership team: Provost Prabhat Hajela, Chief of Staff Elisha Mozersky, Vice President for Research Jonathan Dordick, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Virginia Gregg, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer John Kolb ’79, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions Paul Marthers, Vice President for Human Resources Curtis Powell, Vice President for Student Life Timothy Sams, and Acting Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations Allison Newman.

Jackson also recognized her academic leadership team: Dean of the School of Architecture Evan Douglis, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Mary Simoni, Dean of the Lally School of Management Thomas Begley, Dean of the School of Science Laurie Leshin, and Administrative Dean of the School of Engineering Joe Chow.

According to Jackson, RPI has seen 29 new tenure and tenure-track hires over the last year. Among these are constellation chairs Catherine Royer and Richard Gross. Jackson also took a moment to recognize Geoffrey Seber, the recipient of the 2013 Pillar of Rensselaer.

Jackson went on to discuss The Rensselaer Plan and the accomplishments RPI has made through it. She explained that, although many experienced doubts and worries while it was being implemented, the plan was realized. “We’re not done yet,” she added. With the advent of The Rensselaer Plan 2024, Jackson hopes to push the Institute even further.

The Rensselaer Plan 2024 shows a shift of focus and an emphasis on RPI’s global impact with its research, according to Jackson. “The implementation is well underway,” she said. Through the Plan, the Institute will see an increased focus on research opportunities for undergraduate students. Students will also be introduced to increased presence online in terms of classes. New students unaccustomed to calculus will be able to take an online course before ever arriving on campus. As a part of the Plan, the Lally School of Management has two new majors: a Master of Science in business analytics and a Master of Science in supply chain management.

Jackson also took some time to discuss how the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students initiative would play a part in the future of RPI. This year, three HASS inquiry courses were introduced, which help students determine what exactly they want from their majors. Additionally, the Blitman Leadership Forum will be implemented in the near future to bring leaders together at the Blitman Residence Commons.

Two new “research umbrellas” have been added under RPI’s “signature thrusts.” The five thrusts include: computational science and engineering; biotechnology and life sciences; nanotechnology and advanced materials; energy, environment, and smart systems; and media, art science, and technology. The two new umbrellas are “Beyond the internet: Digital Meets Reality” and “Infrastructural Resilience, Sustainability, and Stewardship.” Within the first is the Jefferson Project at Lake George, a project involving the use of sensors to gather usable data from the lake. It also includes a collaboration with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Together, the institute will run the Mount Sinai/Rensselaer Collaborative Center for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which will be based in both New York City and Troy.

Jackson ended the meeting by opening up the floor to questions from the audience. However, no member of the audience asked a question, and Jackson closed the meeting with a presentation of this year’s Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond video.

For more information about what was said at the meeting, visit to watch a recording of the meeting. A transcript of Jackson’s speech is also available at