Innovation comes at all of us at an ever-accelerating rate, and it takes thoughtful analysis, understanding of the value and limits of data, and, perhaps most of all, an open perspective to sort through what is significant and what is trivial.
When faced with cascading changes, a leader must remain clear on core objectives while recognizing that traditional rules may not pertain in the face of qualitative change. It may seem like a superhuman task to make choices that simultaneously respect and support interdisciplinary teams, identify which options are best for complicated organizations, and keep open those doors that may lead to the best futures. The two anchors for effective leadership in a fast-changing, complex world are integrity and experience.
At Rensselaer, we value knowledge, expertise, rigorous processes, and collaboration. Our model for leadership includes reaching out to others and qualifying their input with sensitivity and discernment.
We are oriented toward engagement, so our approach to leadership takes advantage of the experiences that come from direct participation in addressing the major issues of our times and working with others to find solutions. This work is based on tested principles—valuing knowledge, rigorous methodologies, and openness to diverse perspectives. Ultimately, leaders must take the truths they have learned and the directions they have charted and bring them to the wider community, communicating with respect, clarity, and heart so the best is attained from everyone. After all, it is not just the right idea, it is the right execution that matters.
Rensselaer ranks among the best universities in the United States, according to the annual list of college rankings by U.S. News & World Report. The publication’s list ranks Rensselaer 42nd among 311 national research universities. With its overall composite score rising each year, Rensselaer has been ranked as one of the top 50 national universities by U.S. News for the past 18 years.
In addition to the university ranking, the undergraduate engineering program was ranked 30th in the nation by U.S. News, and the mechanical engineering program was ranked 19th. In the “Great School at a Great Price” category, Rensselaer ranked 31st, continuing a steady rise in that category over the last five years.
Factors contributing to the top ranking include a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-one; 97 percent of faculty who are full-time; strong academic reputation; and high school counselor’s rank.
“For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has provided a radically active form of teaching and learning to students who have gone on to push the frontiers of technology and truly change the world,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Our continued high standing in the U.S. News rankings reflects our dedication to providing an unparalleled educational experience to an accomplished and increasingly diverse student body.”
More than a century after black Civil War veterans began imagining a monument to honor the civic contributions of African Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history, and culture, officially opened its doors last September. President Shirley Ann Jackson was one of several notable guests who spoke during the grand opening dedication ceremony.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush, joined members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and visitors from across the country on the National Mall during the ceremony. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), a veteran of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., chancellor of the Smithsonian, also attended the dedication.
“Today, the Smithsonian Institution launches a museum where the history, culture, and the heroism of African-Americans are recognized fully, as constituting a great tributary feeding the larger stream of our national story,” said President Jackson, who also served as vice chair for the Smithsonian Board of Regents. “I grew up in Washington, D.C., not from a wealthy background, in a segregated environment, but it was my great fortune, as a young girl, to have the Smithsonian as an extension of my classrooms. It is so meaningful for me, and for millions like me, to see the achievements of African-Americans now being given a place of honor here on the National Mall.”
“The opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the future of natural history museums in the 21st century are subjects of great relevance to Rensselaer faculty and students, given our leadership in technologies with the potential to transform the museum experience, including cognitive and immersive systems, and data science and visualization,” President Jackson noted.
Rensselaer has joined more than 180 institutions on five continents designated as All-Steinway Schools, dedicated to providing the best instruments possible for the study of music. An official All-Steinway plaque of recognition was presented to President Shirley Ann Jackson during the Institute’s annual holiday concert.
In the last five years, Rensselaer has purchased five Steinway grand pianos and six Steinway-engineered studio pianos, and a Steinway grand was donated to Rensselaer by Philip Maloof ’58 in honor of his mother and her brothers. “At Rensselaer, we work to ensure that our students and faculty are able to practice, to compose, and to perform on the very finest of instruments,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “Our Steinway pianos exemplify the seriousness of our commitment at Rensselaer to the arts, and to the connection between the arts and science and technology. We thank Steinway & Sons for recognizing Rensselaer as a university that provides its students and faculty with the most advanced tools for education, for expression, for collaboration, and for innovation.”
President Jackson noted that such a commitment can be seen in the creation of the “magnificent performing arts center,” which also serves as a laboratory for research in human perception and immersive technologies of all kinds; in Art_X@Rensselaer, which is incorporating artistic concepts across the curriculum and throughout the campus; in the Arts faculty; and in the development of a new, technologically focused Bachelor of Science in Music degree.
“One of my goals when I came to Rensselaer was to expand upon the media, arts, science, and technology signature research thrust and, more recently, to develop programs around Art_X@ Rensselaer, noting the Institute’s commitment to advancing knowledge and culture at the nexus of the arts writ large and the STEM disciplines,” said Simoni.
During Reunion & Homecoming weekend, President Shirley Ann Jackson moderated a wide-ranging discussion with Rensselaer alumnae who are top executives in major businesses and industry.
During the talk, titled “Impact on the Global Challenges: Rensselaer Alumnae in Position to Create Change,” participants talked about how they are positioning their companies to address the global challenges—including cybersecurity, data exploration and applications, technology, and advanced materials—and to change the world.
In addition to President Jackson, the panel included Trustee Wanda Denson-Low ’78, Vice Chair, Rensselaer Board of Trustees, retired senior vice president, Office of Internal Governance, The Boeing Company; Rensselaer Trustee Linda Pitzi Jojo ’87, ’92G, United Airlines executive vice president, technology, and chief digital officer; former Rensselaer Trustee Linda Sanford ’75G, executive for The Carlyle Group, IBM senior vice president, enterprise transformation (former); and Kristin Ann Seaver ’90, ’98 EMBA, United States Postal Service chief information officer and executive vice president.
The School of Architecture has been ranked the 13th best undergraduate program in the nation by the architectural research organization DesignIntelligence.
The DesignIntelligence Quarterly’s annual “America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools” edition is the most sought-after publication in the U.S. for design school ratings. For this year’s rankings, hiring professionals from nearly 2,000 firms were asked to identify programs that are best preparing students for success in the profession.
They also were asked to consider 11 design education focus areas. Rensselaer was ranked 6th nationwide in “Engineering Fundamentals”; 9th in “Design Technologies,” “Construction Materials and Methods,” and “Interdisciplinary Studies”; and 10th in “Research.”
“It’s quite satisfying to know that the exceptional achievement of our students and faculty is being recognized nationally,” said Dean Evan Douglis. “I really believe we have one of the premier architecture programs today throughout the country. Given the pedagogical diversity of our faculty, our unique culture of interdisciplinary collaboration, our commitment to the study of architecture as the integration of art and science, our robust study abroad program providing our students with a life-changing cultural immersive experience, and our unwavering commitment to architecture as an important social project, the education of an architect here at Rensselaer is creatively and intellectually rigorous, experimental, comprehensive, and timely in response to a complex and changing world. We are preparing our students to become future leaders
President Shirley Ann Jackson, recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Science, led a panel discussion with three alumni who are recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation during Reunion 2016. Titled “Creative Connections, Transformative Innovations,” the panel featured B. Jayant Baliga, Ph.D. ’74, inventor of power electronics devices, Marcian “Ted” Hoff ’58, inventor of the microprocessor, and Steven J. Sasson ’72, inventor of the digital camera.
Baliga, who earned his master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering at Rensselaer, received the 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation for development and commercialization of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor and other power semiconductor devices that are extensively used in transportation, lighting, medicine, defense, and renewable energy generation systems.
Hoff, along with Stanley Mazor and Federico Faggin, received the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation for the conception, design, development, and application of the first microcomputer. The subsequent commercial acceptance of this universal building block enabled a multitude of novel digital electronic systems, from traffic lights and countless small appliances and electronics, to automobiles.
Sasson, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Rensselaer, received the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation for the invention of the digital camera, which has revolutionized the way images are captured, stored and shared, thereby creating new opportunities for commerce, education, and improved worldwide communication.
Just one day after he confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the Supreme Court’s newest jurist, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. visited the Rensselaer campus and held a lively discussion with President Shirley Ann Jackson in front of a packed house at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. During the day, Roberts made surprise visits to two classes and met with members of the campus at a reception following the talk.
“The new justice is not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a member of the Supreme Court,” Roberts told an audience of approximately 900 Rensselaer students, faculty, and staff in April.
Though it’s not a “political” branch of the government, President Jackson said the Supreme Court currently does operate in a “highly political environment,” especially in light of the nomination for the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement. She asked how, or if, the politics of the confirmation process for nominees is different than in the past.
Roberts pointed out that “throughout this whole process, the Supreme Court has been quietly going about its business of deciding the cases before it according to the Constitution in a completely non-partisan way. We’ve done it for the past 14 months and will do it going into the future now that we have a full complement. It is a real danger that the partisan hostility that people see in the political branches will infect the non-partisan activity of the judicial branch.”
The hour-long conversation touched on technology in the courtroom (“A tremendous revolution,” according to Roberts), tension around race issues and how strict interpretations of a Constitution written so long ago can allow fair decisions, and lifetime appointments to the Court (Judges are not supposed to be popular, Roberts said. Lifetime appointments are vital).
We know Alzheimer’s as a brutal disease that dismantles our loved ones and condemns them to death. But science and engineering researchers look inside the disease to identify early warning signs and develop the imaging techniques to see them, to unravel the biochemical puzzle that creates a toxic clump of misfolded proteins, and to develop and test new drugs and therapies that chip away at cognitive decline. The insights that emerge from such research are the seeds for medicine in the form of diagnostic tools, treatments, and hopefully, a cure.
To bolster the connections between benchside and bedside, the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging has awarded Rensselaer a five-year $1.5 million training grant to support a new Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical and Translational Research Training Program. The program positions Rensselaer students to contribute to Alzheimer’s research by exposing them to a range of biotechnology and lighting research on neurodegenerative diseases, including a summer clinical rotation in medical research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with whom Rensselaer has an existing partnership.
“We want our students to understand this disease in a holistic sense and carry that knowledge through their education and their career,” said Mariana Figueiro, principal investigator on the grant, and director of the Lighting Research Center. “The perspective they gain, built upon the strengths of research at Rensselaer, will improve their ability to develop more effective diagnoses, treatments, and cures.”
The grant acknowledges the potential impact of research at Rensselaer, said Deepak Vashishth, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, where research in bio-medical engineering, biological sciences, and chemical engineering and chemistry explores the mechanistic underpinning and develops new markers, and therapeutic and non-therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s disease.
“As a technological university, Rensselaer is a critical starting point for advances in health care,” said Vashishth. “We want our students to see the big picture of Alzheimer’s research that’s formed by multiple investigations across the Institute, and the connections to clinical work at Mount Sinai.”