The Student Life Performance Plan presentation was given during the Student Senate meeting on Monday. The Student Life Performance Plan is part of RPI’s new plan, The Rensselaer Plan 2024, which will improve upon The Rensselaer Plan, which was initiated by President Shirley Ann Jackson in May of 2000. Vice President of Student Life Timothy Sams stated that The Rensselaer Plan needed to be “refreshed.” With the 200 year anniversary of the school rapidly approaching, the leaders of RPI feel that the school’s accomplishments should be showcased in time for 2024. With most of the goals in The Rensselaer Plan achieved, the RPI administration feels that the school needs a new challenge. Sams states that The Rensselaer Plan 2024 not only “speaks as to who we are as an institution, but it also speaks about who we are going to be.” The meeting then proceeded with heads of nearly every department on campus discussing what changes will be made within their various realms of control.
Director of the Archer Center Linda Teitelman-McCluskey stated that her staff was currently working on cultivating ideas and plans for their Advance Challenge Studio. This area would guide participants through challenges that would improve their leadership skills. This plan would include the construction of a rope course, through which the participants would have to lead each other and use teamwork to reach the end successfully. A higher ropes course will help students build confidence.
The interim executive director/associate director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, Dawn Cairns-Weaver, noted that one goal of the CCPD is to increase opportunities for students in underrepresented majors in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, School of Science, and School of Architecture. Communication Specialist for Student Life Brianna LaBrecque said that they were creating “a cohesive communications platform for student life” including a website. Dean of Students Mark Smith said that the Dean of Students Office is “developing opportunities for students to engage in community service.” Smith further explained that a certificate process would be put in place for students who had participate in a great deal of community service. The certificate process would be “something to certify that you have extended yourself beyond the classroom.”
Athletic Director Jim Knowlton stated that it was his goal to further elevate the overall athletics program here at RPI. There is evidence for the division’s use of the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students Initiative, such as involving a large number of students in sports of any level and the training of team captains. Knowlton wants to see these initiatives go even further, reaching more people on a more personal level. In addition, there is the long-term goal of progressing East Campus Athletic Village phase two into a tangible reality.
Sharon Kunkel explained that the Registrar is working on enhancing the degree review program so that all students can graduate on time. Director of Residence Life Todd Schill talked about a new electronic housing sign-up system to make the housing process easier and encourage upperclassmen to continue living on campus. More themed housing with classrooms attached to the residence halls are also planned to be created.
Director of the Rensselaer Union Joe Cassidy spoke about using this new plan to enhance the average student’s experience around the building. This would include upgrading the software that the Union uses to reserve its rooms as well as researching options for better utilization of the Union building itself. There is an overall ideal of improving the stance of the student body as a whole. Cassidy stated that “it starts out enhancing student leadership training,” which is partially done through club officers and student employees of the Union.
Director of the Student Health Center Leslie Lawrence, reported that in the spirit of improvement and adaptation of The Rensselaer 2024, the Student Health Center will soon hire a nutritionist/dietician who is readily available to the RPI student body. This movement is made in order to answer the high amount of requests for food-based guidance. This appeal has been made by various clubs, individual students, and athletes of all levels for various reasons relating to health. Lawrence is making finding a nutritionist one of the biggest priorities for the coming years.
Assistant Vice President for Student Experience Lisa Trahan then spoke about how her department may better serve the needs of the RPI student body and make each student reach their greatest potential. She discussed the ideas of making each student fit into where they feel comfortable, and how they can make the most of their experience at RPI. In accordance with the new plan, the Student Experience Office will, among other projects, support students in its efforts for scholarships and graduate school admission, as well as the overall goal of reaching out to the students, regardless of their school year.
After the speakers finished, the audience had a chance to ask questions. Kyle Keraga ’15 inquired about the newly installed portal that was aiding the selection of housing on campus for RPI students. Schill was happy to report that the first of the electronic forms were released and filled out smoothly with round two to come on the January 29. Keraga also asked about themed housing; he was part of Vasudha, the environmental-themed Living and Learning Community. Schill explained that many of the new themed housing areas would be student-led, like Design and Arts Housing, which was led by Michael Villardi ’13.
Ernesto Villasenor ’14 wanted to know more about the school’s efforts to aid first-generation students, specifically in the realms of the Student Health Center and Student Experience Office. Support came from the respective departments who ensured the senator that those who needed guidance would always be able to find it in their offices. Both Lawrence and Sams ensured that, as first-generation students themselves, they have personal experience about what support first-generation students need. Sams was able to relate this idea back to The Rensselaer 2024 by stating that through CLASS and the vastly knowledgeable staff at RPI, the school can achieve its heightened goals, solve problems such as these, and grow even further in the future.