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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Remarks at Rensselaer Alumni Association Board Dinner

Category: University Events
February, 2018
Hilton Garden Inn

Rensselaer Alumni Association Board Dinner

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

Welcome to campus on this 41st Big Red Freakout weekend! My Cabinet and I are happy to have you with us for one of our most enjoyable traditions—and to have the opportunity at this dinner, after our program, to answer any of your questions.

However, to begin, please let me offer you the overwhelming evidence we are seeing that the reputation of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is soaring.

First, although we had a record-breaking number of applications (over 19,500) for our freshman class in 2017, the Class of 2021, records are made to be broken. Applications to join the Class of 2022 now stand at over 20,300, and include the greatest number of female, underrepresented minority, and international applicants in Rensselaer history.

Demand for a Rensselaer education has never been higher—and given our many top-ranked programs, this is not a surprise.

  • Our Information Technology and Web Sciences program, for example, is ranked number 1 among 35 undergraduate programs at national colleges and universities by College Choice.

  • Our undergraduate Physics program is ranked 6th by College Factual.

  • Our undergraduate Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program, already ranked 6th nationwide by TheBestSchools.org and 10th by Animation Career Review, was just ranked 7th by GameDesigning and 12th by The Art Career Project. We are developing M.S. and Ph.D. programs in this field as well.

  • Our Master’s of Business Analytics is ranked third in the nation by TFE Times;

  • Our School of Architecture is ranked 13th by DesignIntelligence; and

  • Rensselaer is ranked, very recently, the 8th best college in New York State by College Choice (after Columbia, United States Military Academy – West Point, Cornell, Colgate, Hamilton College, Vassar, and Barnard).

Applications for these programs, and for Rensselaer overall, are continuously and strongly growing.

Rensselaer also recently was ranked 19th in the nation for career placement in the 2018 edition of The Princeton Review Colleges That Pay You Back guide. Only 7 percent of all four-year colleges in the United States were included in the guide as offering an exceptional return on investment. The editors note that among the many factors that set Rensselaer apart are its stellar academics, great reputation with science and technology employers, comprehensive career services, vigorous alumni network that benefits our graduates, and, perhaps most inspiring—the fact that Rensselaer graduates report that their jobs have a meaningful impact on the world.

Our vigorous alumni network, of course, does not merely help our students change the world after Commencement. It is helping to deepen the experiential education we offer, through The Arch—a reimagining of the academic calendar, which will launch fully in the summer of 2019.

As you know, under The Arch, all Rensselaer students will spend the summer after their sophomore year on campus, taking a full semester of junior-level coursework, so that they may spend one semester (and more) of their junior year off on an adventure suited to their own talents and interests—whether an internship, research project, entrepreneurship experience, or volunteer experience—and still graduate in the same span of time. A number of our alumni and alumnae have enthusiastically embraced The Arch—and are creating opportunities for Rensselaer juniors.

We recently connected with our alumni and alumnae across Florida, at well-attended luncheons in Miami, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach—and urged them to consider the benefits to the organizations they lead of bringing on Rensselaer students under The Arch.

And given our desire to educate our students for multicultural sophistication and a global view, we are actively engaging our alumni network abroad for The Arch. Two recent trips I made, representing Rensselaer within the World Economic Forum, offered me opportunities to connect with alumni and alumnae in Dubai and Zurich, Switzerland.

I was in Dubai in November for a meeting of the Global Future Council on International Security, which I co-chair, and in Davos, Switzerland, last month for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. In Davos, I led a session that considered what the geopolitical map of the world might look like in 2030—as four factors create new vulnerabilities and opportunities with potentially cascading consequences.

Those factors are…

  • An evolving definition of the most critical strategic resources—essential to many key technologies and systems—such as lithium and cobalt, which are found in areas that influence geopolitical alliances;

  • Climate change, which is opening up new resources in the Arctic Circle, and causing new vulnerabilities, including the storm surges and sea level rises that threaten coastal cities around the world;

  • A clash of demographics between the aging developed world and the youthful developing world, which can result from massive migration from one region of the world to another; and

  • Advancing technologies, including those that hold great promise for medicine, energy, the built environment, transportation systems, and the nature of work; but include technologies that are altering the nature of conflict and making it harder for nation-states to govern—as well as potentially displacing aging workers in developed economies.

The theme of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting this year was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” Indeed, at Rensselaer, our vision for our third century aims directly at creating a shared future in a fractured world through The New Polytechnic—and the collaborations we foster here across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations.

We are engaging, as well, with our alumni and alumnae through our Rensselaer Global Game Changers Series, a series of fascinating panel discussions that feature alumni and alumnae leaders, along with Rensselaer faculty experts, who, together, consider an issue at the cutting edge of business and technology. Our first Global Game Changers Panel considered fintech—or the technology of finance. Our second panel focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning, and our third, next month, will consider the nexus of bioengineering and computation.

These Global Game Changers events not only offer our alumni and alumnae insights into emerging trends, but also a high-level networking opportunity—and so far, all have been sell-outs.

The success, thus far, of our new capital campaign, “Transformative: Campaign for Global Change,” is another sign of how highly Rensselaer is valued by its alumni, alumnae, parents, friends, corporations, and foundations. Since we launched the campaign in October and announced that we already were $400 million towards our billion-dollar goal, we have engaged over a hundred new donors—and raised more than $20 million in addition. These funds, of course, will undergird the campaign’s three pillars:

The first pillar is increasing endowed student financial aid, as we continue to enhance the remarkable student experience at Rensselaer. We thank the RAA for your efforts on this front, and I am pleased to say that the RAA Scholarship Fund stands at over $300,000, with an ultimate goal of $1 million.

Our second pillar is creating new endowed professorships that will allow us to attract and retain the very best academic talent from around the world—and to expand our tenured and tenure-track faculty to 500.

Our third pillar focuses on our beautiful Troy campus, which we must continue to grow, modernize, and equip for continued leadership in pedagogy, research, and student life.

I am so pleased that we have students with us this evening, who will give you a sense of the transformations we have effected at Rensselaer. They are examples of the primary reason why our capital campaign is so important—so that Rensselaer can continue enabling talented young people from diverse backgrounds to fulfill their own promise and to be transformative in the world at large.

We are well on our way to realizing our Rensselaer Plan 2024, and I thank the Rensselaer Alumni Association, and particularly its Board members, for all they contribute to Rensselaer. Now, please enjoy the rest of the program—and have a wonderful weekend!