RPI anticipates new capital campaign

PRESIDENT SHIRLEY ANN JACKSON POSES with student leaders for a photo at an ice cream social, which was the first of many capital campaign kick-off events.

In anticipation of Rensselaer’s capital campaign launch on Friday, October 13, President Shirley Ann Jackson released three emails to the RPI community, each detailing a main objective of the campaign.

The first email, released on September 29, focused on “bridging the gap” and “creating access and enhancing the student experience.”

Jackson mentioned that the cost of a Rensselaer education has risen, and that currently 43 percent of the undergraduate population has financial needs that exceed the financial aid given to them. The gap between need and aid is currently $32 million per year. As a result, the campaign is largely intended to build a “student aid endowment” that could make RPI more accessible to people of different financial backgrounds.

In addition, the campaign will be used to continue down the path of “pedagogical innovation” so that once the “best students” are at RPI, they can receive the “best possible education.” This innovation currently includes The Arch; Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students; and mixed-reality experiences, and will expand as research uncovers different methods for teaching and learning.

The second email, released on October 2, revolved around “The Faculty 500,” which includes “attracting top faculty” and “empowering world-changing research.”

More than 360 tenure and tenure-track faculty have been hired by RPI in the past two decades, and sponsored research expenditures have tripled to $100 million per year. Through the campaign, Jackson aims to raise those numbers to 500 faculty and $250 million, while also creating more endowed professorships.

The final email, sent on October 6, expanded on “building the third-century campus.” Jackson emphasized the need for academic facilities to enable “radically innovative” pedagogy through research laboratories with “cutting-edge capabilities.” The capital campaign in 2008 started this process, with renovations to the East Campus Athletic Village, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, the Center for Computational Innovations, and the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

It will continue, through the upcoming capital campaign, with a “state-of-the-art Center for Science,” and the second phase of ECAV expansion. The Center for Science will focus on research, with an aim to raise “productivity, rankings, and visibility” while accommodating an expanding faculty. An “indoor Olympic-quality swimming pool, tennis courts, practice and playing fields for field hockey and lacrosse, and an indoor field house for track and field” are among the planned additions to ECAV.

Jackson briefly mentioned upgrading and renovating student housing, but did not go into detail on plans for such an effort.

This capital campaign was announced at the president’s Fall Town Meeting in 2016 with a brief account of its goals. At the time, Jackson stated that pursuing research grants, increasing financial aid for undergraduates, and expanding graduate enrollment to 2,500 students would be some of the goals of the campaign. The latter, however, was not explicitly mentioned in any of the emails that Jackson released.

On October 9, the pre-campaign launch began with an ice cream social in the Rensselaer Union, which included a brief reiteration of the capital campaign’s goals from Jackson. The pre-campaign will continue with a barbecue on October 11 on the ’86 Field. The official kick-off will begin on October 12 with a variety of events throughout the weekend.