2022 Closing Thoughts

Martin Schmidt '81, Ph.D., President
The Rensselaer Community

As the Fall 2022 semester comes to a close, I want to thank you for a wonderful first term as president of RPI. Lyn and I wish you and yours happy holidays and a healthy, restful break.

New Year’s Day will mark six months in office for me, and in striving to honor the commitment I made at the very beginning to open communication with you, I wanted to take the opportunity to briefly reflect on our first months together and my thoughts on what is ahead for us.

As many of you know, my “Listening and Learning” tour occupied a good part of my early time on campus. Over those first months, I met with more than 2,000 students, staff, faculty, alumni, and parents in over 70 meetings and events, both on campus and as far away as California. I have also met with industry, nonprofit, and government leaders. And this will continue, as I want community connection to be one of the hallmarks of my presidency. As such, I’m expanding my travel schedule to Florida, Texas, Arizona, and more in the coming weeks to meet as many members of our extended alumni and parent networks as I can. 

You made it clear in our listening sessions that the last few years have been challenging, and that many people and departments were stretched thin as we worked to deliver on the mission of the university through a global pandemic. I am grateful that you were willing to go above and beyond, often taking on multiple roles. I do believe that the work we’re now doing will lighten the load, allowing us to build from the solid foundation your persistence provided.

Looking forward, I need to pivot from listening and learning to more action. There is much to be done, and we face challenges, not the least of which is seeking new resources to achieve our ambitions for the future. In the short run, we will be looking for opportunities to improve our processes and organization to allow people to do their best work. You have offered many suggestions, and we have begun to work on many of these, but there is more to do. We are also focused on restoring RPI to a healthy size. We have hired new employees to help support our current staff, our continuing students, and the record-sized Class of 2026, and there are currently more than 50 faculty searches underway.

To provide more direction as we move forward, this week I shared the draft report of the Climate Survey Task Force with the staff and faculty. The Task Force is currently soliciting their feedback and comments before providing me with the final report. The draft report provides a frank account and analysis of the results of the anonymous climate survey that was administered in 2021. More importantly, it lays out a detailed series of concrete and actionable recommendations for improving our campus culture and organization. Once I receive the final report, I will share it with the entire community – including parents and alumni – and will include our plans for acting on the recommendations of the Task Force. We will begin a regular series of climate surveys every other year through Institutional Research, starting with a survey of our students, as an ongoing assessment of the health of our Institute community.

Finally, in my Town Hall address, I communicated a plan for an open and collaborative process of drafting the next strategic plan for the Institute. We will be standing up committees in the new year that will help shape a vision for what we can do in education, research, translation, regional engagement, and fostering an accessible, welcoming, and inclusive community. These committees will seek out input from students, alumni, parents, faculty, and staff so that everyone has a voice in the future we create together. Our goal is to formalize and approve a long-term strategic plan by the end of 2023, in time to celebrate Rensselaer’s bicentennial in 2024, as the nation’s first technological university. 

Let me close by saying that none of what we have done would have been possible without your talent and dedication to RPI’s mission. I appreciate all that you do to make RPI a very special place and have been inspired and motivated by your good spirit and cheer. There is so much to look forward to, but please remember, over the next few weeks, to take time to celebrate with your friends and family. I’m excited to continue working with you to move Rensselaer forward in the new year.

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