Skip to main content

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Remarks at Summer Garden Party

Category: University Events
June, 2017
Home of Nancy Mueller

Summer Garden Party

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

As you know, Nancy Mueller is our wonderful host today. May I ask all of you to join me in giving her a round of applause for this lovely party?

Nancy Mueller, a member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees, is the entrepreneur who founded Nancy’s Specialty Foods in 1977 and was its president for 22 years, before selling the company. It was Nancy’s interest in health and well-being, as well as great generosity, that led us to build the Mueller Center in the center of our Troy campus, a favorite of our students that includes a gym, fitness classes, and wellness programs. The center honors her late husband, Glenn Mueller of the Rensselaer Class of 1964, who also served as Trustee.

I want to acknowledge, also, the Secretary of our Board of Trustees, Curtis R. Priem of the Rensselaer Class of 1982, and his wife Cindi Priem. Curtis is one of the foremost benefactors in Rensselaer history, and our Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center is named in his honor. This is not only one of the most advanced performing arts venues in the world—it also is a laboratory for groundbreaking research in human-digital interactions at the human scale. I will say a bit more about Curtis in a moment.

We also are joined by Dean Shekhar Garde of our School of Engineering and Graig Eastin, our Vice President for Institute Advancement.

I welcome, also, Justin Etzine of the Class of 2018, our Grand Marshal, which is the highest elected office in our student government—a Rensselaer tradition that dates back to 1865. Justin currently is an intern at Cisco, and on his way, clearly, to a great career.

I welcome the members of the remarkable Class of 2021—as well as their families, current students here in California for the summer, and our wonderful alumni and alumnae.

To our incoming freshman, I say congratulations! You are about to embark upon the greatest adventure of your lives.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a very exciting place to live and to learn. We understand that one of the most important things we do as a world-class technological research university is to serve as a great crossroads for talented people across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations. We call this vision The New Polytechnic—“polytechnic” comes from the Greek for “skilled in many arts.”

Of course, the way that one acquires many skills is by making important connections with people whose perspectives are different from your own. At Rensselaer, we make it easy to forge such connections.

It is known that the Rensselaer curriculum is rigorous—but there will be tremendous support for you, and the opportunity to build deep friendships, and intellectual partnerships, every step of the way. Today, indeed, offers just such an opportunity.

You will have two other opportunities before the school year even begins, at student orientation, and then at the five-day Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond program right before classes start, which offers outdoor adventures, cultural programs, and service opportunities with two important goals—helping our incoming freshmen to bond with each other, and learning about the wonderful, historic, and beautiful part of the world in which Rensselaer is located.

Our Office of the First Year Experience will help you to make a seamless transition to college life. This is part of an overarching student experience we call Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students, or CLASS. The clustering I refer to is both residential, ensuring that you live within a tight-knit, caring community—and developmental—ensuring that you will be offered the right chances to grow at the right stages of your college careers.

In fact, our student experience is designed to help you soar in whatever you do—academics, athletics, the arts, service, or international experiences. Eventually you may even mentor younger students in foundational classes, or learn skills that help you to lead teams of talented people in our Archer Center for Student Leadership Development.

Our current students here today can tell you about the remarkable student experience at Rensselaer. However, the Class of 2021 will be the first full class to experience an innovation we have named The Summer Arch, which occurs in two parts. Our rising junior students will spend the summer after their sophomore year on-campus engaged in junior-level classes. As the only undergraduate class on campus, you will have the complete attention of your professors and our Student Life staff, at a key point when you are pivoting to more advanced work. There also will be unique academic, professional, cultural, and recreational experiences tailored just for you.

This will prepare you for a semester away during your junior year. During this away semester, you will be able to enjoy an extended internship or co-op assignment, do research, launch a company, or volunteer for a great cause. We will encourage you to pursue this passion project abroad, to help you develop greater multicultural sophistication and a global view, as well as intellectual agility—all necessary attributes for success today.

And when you return, of course, your experiences will help to enrich the entire Rensselaer community. Although the best graduate schools in the country, as well as the best employers, already clamor for Rensselaer graduates, we expect the unique Summer Arch experience to increase demand for our graduates that much more.

Since our founding in 1824, Rensselaer always has offered an extraordinary education, one in which our students further enhance their creativity, and learn to think for themselves—which is why so many breakthrough discoveries and innovations have been made by our alumni and alumnae. Indeed, Rensselaer graduates have had starring roles here in Silicon Valley, and elsewhere, laying the foundation for the digital age.

For example, it was a company co-founded by a Rensselaer alumnus, Texas Instruments, where the first integrated circuit was invented. Another Rensselaer alumnus, Dr. Marcian “Ted” Hoff of the Rensselaer Class of 1958, was the architect of the first microprocessor.

Here with us today, Curtis Priem is a pioneer in graphical computing, with approximately 200 U.S. and international patents to his credit. In 1993, he co-founded NVIDIA, a manufacturer of graphics and multimedia integrated circuits, and served as its chief technical officer until 2003. Originally focused on GPUs (or graphics processing units) for computer gaming, now NVIDIA processors are taking us into a new era in self-driving vehicles, deep learning, and high-performance computing.

So, when we challenge our students with—“Why not change the world?”—the question is not just rhetorical. Class of 2021, we expect you to rise to the challenge—but we also will make sure that you have lot of fun, and a lot of support, along the road to highly original work.

We are so pleased that you are joining the Rensselaer family!

To help Rensselaer continue its great tradition of educating pioneers well into our third century, we will be launching a major fundraising (capital) campaign during the upcoming Reunion and Homecoming Weekend, October 12th through the 15th. We will be showcasing what make Rensselaer such a special place. I would invite those of you, who are not already on the campus, studying hard, to join us.

To new parents—welcome to the Rensselaer family.

I thank all of you—students, Institute leaders and faculty, current and new students—for making Rensselaer all that it is—and for serving both as passionate advocates for a Rensselaer education—and as living proof that Rensselaer people, do, indeed, change the world.