A crowd of faculty and staff, with a few students in the mix, was welcomed by Provost Dr. Prabhat Hajela in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Theatre on Thursday, October 29. After his address, the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Shirley Ann Jackson took the stage. “We are re-envisioning actually what a modern technological education can and should be,” stated Jackson, setting the tone for her address.
As part of the transformative Rensselaer Plan 2024, Jackson would like “to honor our founder” and continue to call the institution Rensselaer rather than RPI. Additionally, embracing the motives of a modern technological institution will further be tended to through the New Polytechnic plans which focus on addressing worldwide issues. Rensselaer students in a pedagogical institution will continue to develop to become next generation leaders and to develop “depth in their specific domains, which has not changed.”
Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students along with academics helps to build critical thinkers and resilience within each student. The implementation of this theme will build “resilient leadership for a more resilient world.” Adaptability, resourcefulness, and creativity are the coercions of carrying out the theme of resilience. The inquiry humanities and social science courses offered to freshmen are the starting point of the Rensselaer education to raise ethical issues, to expand disciplines, and to act as thought provoking courses. The new Art_X initiative is designed to help students “see the art in and of science and to see the science in and of art.” This will help foster the theme of resilience as a way of developing more well-rounded, disciplined individuals who are willing to solve problems. Mastering engineering and all majors at Rensselaer has also shifted to using artificial intelligent resources, such as a flood protection tool, yet again representing resilience through creativity.
Another new initiative in the planning stage with many committees working to perfect it is the Summer Arch program. It will enable sophomores, beginning with the Class of 2019, to stay on campus after their sophomore year and enroll in junior level classes for the summer. Then during their junior year, either in their fall or spring semester, they will pursue co-ops, internships, or research, with emphasis on going abroad in order to have a transformative cultural experience. The Summer Arch has been “greeted very favorably by the multinational companies that recruit our students.” At Rensselaer, it is truly believed that “a new perspective has the power to change the world.”
This concluded the formal speech, with the next half hour consisting of a question and answer session.The first question inquired about the nuclear reactor research facility. Jackson noted that, with all the security that is needed to maintain the facility compared to the usage, perhaps it is not even worth having around much longer. The decision to close the facility or leave it open will be reached very soon. Other topics that were brought to Jackson’s attention included maintenance of the Rensselaer campus, universal access, and The Polytechnic—which she says she only glances at every once in awhile. Additionally, the lack of community awareness of the Product Design and Innovation Program at RPI was mentioned by Sofia Jacobs ’18, who asked why the Institute continues to introduce “new interdisciplinary programs rather than building the ones that we already have.” According to Provost Hajela, students are the main force in spreading awareness of other programs at Rensselaer. Additionally, a Twitter account was made in order to promote the discoveries and accomplishments of outstanding Rensselaer students to the community, as noted by Russell Sage Chair Linda Schadler. President Jackson dismissed the meeting at 2:10 pm and guests were invited for refreshments.