Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond Kickoff BBQ

Thank you all for joining me for the Welcome Fest kickoff barbecue.

This is a special occasion for me, for a couple of reasons. One is that you are my first entering class as the 19th president of RPI. Another is that, back in 1977, I was exactly where you are today. At that point, I was still choosing between electrical engineering and architecture. I could not have imagined that my time here would lead me to MIT, or that my 40 years of experience at MIT would bring me back to lead my alma mater.

I was excited to rejoin RPI because I remembered my experience here fondly, and also because so much has changed in the time since I was in your place. The campus is more beautiful than ever, and our faculty and students are doing work at the cutting edge of their disciplines. Our home city of Troy is undergoing a renaissance. And the Capital Region has become a hotbed of technological research and entrepreneurship, especially in the field of semiconductors, which was my own research area, and will be crucial to the nation’s future.

We have a strong foundation here at RPI, and we will use that foundation to grow and experiment and innovate. And that’s where you come in. You are a member of the largest, most diverse class in the history of the university. You also come in with the strongest academic credentials. Sixty-four of you were valedictorians or salutatorians of your high school classes, and nearly one hundred of you achieved perfect SAT critical reading, math, or ACT scores. 

Your class includes the most women in an RPI entering first-year class, as well as the most underrepresented minorities. The class is comprised of students from throughout the country, with 6% hailing from California, and nearly 10% from the western regions of the U.S.

Your class, fueled with passion and social commitment, comes to RPI from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 28 countries.

There is a wealth of talent, curiosity, and life experience on this field today. Over the next four years, you’ll get to know more about the young people around you, developing lifelong friendships and close collaborations. And from there, there’s no limit to what you can do. RPI students, alumni, and faculty build bridges to the future and find solutions to the most pressing issues of the time. 

RPI graduates designed our national infrastructure, built the Panama Canal, invented the digital camera, and helped map the human genome. Our students have always been pioneering innovators and entrepreneurs. It’s only appropriate for a school whose motto is “Why not change the world?”

I hope Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond will be the start of that process, an opportunity for you to engage with your classmates, the campus, and the community before you hit the books and the lab.

To help you get to know the city, I’m pleased to introduce Patrick Madden, the Mayor of Troy, New York. Mayor Madden was born and raised in Troy. He has spent more than 30 years advocating for the people and businesses of the city, and that work is paying off in visible and exciting ways. Mayor Madden and his talented administration are effective and invaluable supporters and partners of Rensselaer.

Thank you, Mayor Madden, for all you do for the city of Troy and RPI. 

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