Transformative leadership depends upon grounded inspiration. When imaginative designs and plans are not connected to facts, essential processes, and fundamental limits, they are less likely to be realized.
In addition, history teaches us that change is resisted when those most impacted by innovation are not included early on. When science has challenged long-held beliefs, when new tools have shifted power, and when values have been tested by new capabilities, conflicts have arisen, and people have been left behind. Heliocentrism, vaccines, the printing press, and the image of Earth from Apollo 8 have all been disruptive in their own ways.
This is not to say that leaders should not be dreamers and pathfinders. They and those they collaborate with must stretch and test boundaries or the paradigms of the present will ossify and progress will be limited. The way leaders embrace the future is by gaining the skills and experiences that support grounded inspiration through collaboration and deliberate practice.
That is why participation in projects is one of the keystones of our preparation of a new generation of leaders. It is a practice that dates back to the studio approach, and it has been renewed through our encouragement of student research and The Arch, which provides opportunities for students to leave our campuses for a semester to spend time studying abroad, in volunteer service posts, in entrepreneurial enterprises, and as interns in their chosen fields.
By building from ever-larger opportunities, inclusion and flexibility can be layered into approaches, mitigating division and backlash created by omissions. Those who have valid concerns about the impacts of science and technology need to be invited in. When they are listened to, get their questions answered, and participate in decisions, they can become allies who can help promote needed changes.
Since the launch of Transformative: Campaign for Global Change in 2017, leaders from across the Institute have been traveling across the country and around the world to engage with the Rensselaer community.
Significant progress has been made on the first pillar, Bridging the Gap. As of January 2019, Rensselaer has received more than $47 million in new scholarship commitments. In total, commitments to Bridging the Gap now exceed $111 million. Support for the second pillar, The Faculty 500, has reached $50 million.
The intent for the third pillar, Building the Third-Century Campus, is to expand the Jonsson Engineering Center, to create the next generation of high performance computing infrastructure, to expand student housing and athletic facilities, and to build a new multidisciplinary Center for Science.
Campaign events include “RED Talks,” highlighting the research, education, and discovery happening at Rensselaer. During the presentations, researchers highlight solutions to societally important challenges where Rensselaer is playing a leading role. The talks tie in how our research is potentiated by the vision of The New Polytechnic and The Rensselaer Plan 2024.
As part of Transformative: Campaign for Global Change, students also are sharing with alumni and alumnae around the country firsthand how CLASS (Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students) supports and provides opportunities for their growth and success.
Campaign funding will help close the gap between student need and the financial aid Rensselaer is able to provide. The Campaign also will allow the Institute to build upon visionary academic and student life programs.
Whether it is preparing Rensselaer students for the most forward-looking careers or pursuing the applied research that will solve the problems and create the opportunities of the 21st century, one factor is key: the faculty. Campaign investment in endowed faculty chairs will enhance the Institute’s ability to attract and retain the forward-thinking researchers the world needs and the dedicated professors students deserve.
Rensselaer is home to one of the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputers, as well as 746 labs, studios, and technology spaces used for research. Campaign investment will allow Rensselaer to build a new state-of-the-art Center for Science and complete the second phase of the East Campus Athletic Village, among other campus enhancements, that will increase research productivity, raise rankings and visibility, and improve the quality of students’ intellectual, athletic, and personal lives.
President Shirley Ann Jackson attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting for the Global Future Councils, which took place in Dubai. The annual meeting brought together more than 700 members of the Network of Global Future Councils to shape a better future.
The World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Future Councils is the world’s foremost interdisciplinary knowledge network dedicated to promoting innovative thinking on the future. The network convenes thought leaders from academia, government, business, and civil society to challenge conventional thinking and develop new insights and perspectives on the key global systems, as well as the impact and governance of key emerging technologies.
The meeting allowed members to jointly explore ways of facilitating systemic change in critical areas such as health, energy, and infrastructure through breakthrough technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Scientific discovery and technological innovation are at the core of the solutions to many of the great challenges and opportunities of our time,” said President Jackson, co-chair of the Global Future Council on the Future of International Security. “Universities play a significant role in generating the ideas and sparking the innovations that drive the global economy and sustain our security. It is imperative that universities, business, and governments, along with NGOs, collaborate in charting a sustainable path forward. This gathering of world leaders offered an unparalleled opportunity to set the goals and enhance the interconnections that can help strengthen our institutions as we work to meet the challenges and tap the opportunities before us.”
Cynthia Collins, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer, also participated in the meeting. Collins is a member of the Global Future Council on Biotechnologies.
A new research center focused on vertical flight has been launched at Rensselaer. Under the leadership of Farhan Gandhi, the Rosalind and John J. Redfern Jr. ’33 Professor of Engineering, MOVE—The Center for Mobility with Vertical Lift—will pursue cutting-edge research in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft technologies.
Rensselaer celebrated the launch with a two-day symposium in October. The event included lectures and a panel discussion by representatives of industry, government, and academia.
Vertical lift technology is undergoing a major renaissance, according to Gandhi, an expert in rotorcraft aeromechanics and advanced VTOL configurations. On the one hand, driven by the military’s needs, there is interest in configuration advancements leading to efficient VTOL aircraft that are capable of significantly higher cruise speeds.
“On the other hand, there is a tremendous buzz around the emergent field of multi-rotor electric VTOL, or eVTOL,” said Gandhi. A new class of both electric and hybrid electric aircraft is envisioned for a range of applications, he said, from package and payload delivery to air taxis.
Symposium speakers included Mark Moore, director of engineering for Uber Elevate, which has launched a project to develop a network of eVTOL aircraft to provide transportation for commuters in big cities.
Panelists from such companies as Bell, Terrafugia, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Boeing, as well as the Army Research Laboratory and the University of Maryland, discussed the current status and technical challenges of electric VTOL.
Data is a critical building block of a fast-approaching future, and Rensselaer is ensuring that all of its students are adept architects with the adoption of a new institute-wide requirement in data education. The requirement, the first of its kind in the nation, will propel all Rensselaer students beyond the current collegiate standard of “data literacy” to “data dexterity”—proficiency in using diverse datasets to define and solve complex real-world problems.
The data requirement is part of an updated core curriculum—the common academic and non-academic elements that all students must complete to graduate—that reflects the skills and capabilities graduates need to be tomorrow’s global leaders and problem-solvers. Data dexterity is a critical piece of that equation. A 2017 market analysis from the Business Higher Education Forum calls for annual job openings to rise steadily to 2.72 million postings for data science and analytics roles in 2020.
“With humanity now creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of digital data daily—and growing—we believe that every Rensselaer graduate, in every field, is going to need to understand how to find insights within diverse datasets to define and address complex problems,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson.
A “data-intensive sequence” requires all students to complete two “data-intensive” courses; one to establish the foundations of data modeling and analysis, and a second within their academic discipline. Rather than increase the overall number of credit hours students must earn, curriculum on data awareness and exposure will be infused into existing courses that will be designated as “data-intensive.” Building on concepts introduced as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded pilot program, Rensselaer has also developed new courses and opportunities for students who wish to explore data-driven study, such as a data-centric laboratory experience that connects teams of students with industry partners to tackle a data-intensive problem.
President Shirley Ann Jackson, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, was among eight recipients of the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at the sixth annual Hutchins Center Honors presented by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.
She was joined by:
- athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick;
- comedian Dave Chappelle;
- Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and managing director of General Catalyst;
- philanthropist and founder of Avid Partners, LLC, Pamela J. Joyner;
- psychologist and author Florence C. Ladd;
- Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice; and
- artist Kehinde Wiley.
The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to African and African American history and culture, and, more broadly, individuals who advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights in an increasingly global and interconnected world.
To help address the growing need for a larger workforce of health data analysts and technologists, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the United Health Foundation are expanding access to health informatics educational opportunities and applied health data science research experiences through the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA). The three-year, $1.1 million grant from the United Health Foundation to Rensselaer supports the creation of the “Rensselaer Health Informatics Challenges in Technology Education (INCITE) Pipeline” to prepare students for careers in health data science through several interrelated initiatives, including:
- Enhancing curricula to make health informatics more accessible to students from an array of majors such as biology and mathematics;
- Creating a new “synthetic data generator” to expose students to real-world health data challenges and test solutions; and
- Promoting experiential learning through online challenges available to students at Rensselaer and around the world.
“Rensselaer is a leader in bringing together the physical, digital, and biological worlds to drive research innovations and distinct educational opportunities,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Our partnership with the United Health Foundation will expand opportunities for researchers and students to tackle the tough challenges of our health care system through the integration of human intelligence with machine intelligence.”
The grant specifically supports the work of the IDEA, which enables data science research and education across the campus, and is directed by Professor Kristin Bennett. The partnership will yield a larger pipeline of students pursuing data science careers in health care. “Investing in tomorrow’s health data scientists is vital to unlocking the solutions to health care’s toughest problems and creating the actionable insights we need for better care quality and health outcomes,” said Dr. Paul Bleicher ’76, CEO of OptumLabs.
APARNA GUPTA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF QUANTITATIVE FINANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT, HAS BEEN INVITED TO JOIN THE U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION IN ITS DIVISION OF ECONOMIC AND RISK ANALYSIS (DERA) AS A VISITING RESEARCHER.
THE SEC DERA SERVES AS THE THINK TANK OF THE COMMISSION, INTEGRATING FINANCIAL ECONOMICS AND RIGOROUS DATA ANALYTICS INTO ITS CORE MISSION. GUPTA WILL WORK ON DEVELOPING A MULTI-LAYER NETWORK ARCHITECTURE FOR RISK DEPENDENCIES OF DIFFERENT ASSETS AND MARKET PLAYERS THAT DETERMINE THE MARKET QUALITY AND TRADING ACTIVITY FOR SPECIFIC ASSET CLASSES.
Rensselaer has been awarded $1.4 million in project funding by Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) as part of its first round of funding to strengthen U.S. manufacturing. ARM selected projects that will generate timely impact on the national manufacturing landscape and serve as examples of ARM’s mission.
The project focuses on advanced robotics manufacturing and will develop an operator-guided, semi-automatic assembly process using industrial robots integrated with multiple sensors. The goal of the project is to improve manufacturing productivity by enhancing the operator’s capabilities through advanced robotics, and appropriately applying the technologies that capitalize on the strengths of the robotics (e.g., precise manipulation) and the operator (e.g., decision-making).
The principal investigator for the grant is John Wen, the Russell Sage Professor and head of electrical, computer, and systems engineering. According to Wen, “This ARM project allows us to bring a large team together to advance robotics technology and workforce training in manufacturing and industrial automation. Our students are gaining valuable experience from working with industrial professionals and the exposure to real-world needs and requirements.”
Students, faculty, and staff at Rensselaer enjoy the opportunity to see and hear from all kinds of remarkable people at campus events. Everyone from heads of major international corporations, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, members of the U.S. Congress and other branches of government, groundbreaking researchers, pioneering leaders, and so many more have visited campus in the last few years.
Recently, Rensselaer hosted a conversation that focused on the compelling question, are we going to Mars? Presented by the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation, in partnership with Rensselaer, “Are We Going to Mars? An Evening With Trailblazers” focused on our ability to reach the red planet in the near future.
Debating this landmark achievement were Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, a recent recipient of the National Medal of Science; Ellen Ochoa, the former director of the Johnson Space Center and the first Hispanic woman to go into space; James Gates, renowned theoretical physicist and recipient of the National Medal of Science; and Thomas Zelibor, CEO of the Space Foundation. The discussion was moderated by Robert Altman, president of WMHT, the area’s Public Broadcasting Service television station.
Prior to the evening discussion, the School of Engineering hosted a program for local high school and Rensselaer students to have lunch and a discussion with Ochoa, while Gates attended a breakfast and discussion with School of Science students.
The five schools of Rensselaer are led by:
- Evan Douglis, dean of the School of Architecture;
- Curt Breneman, dean of the School Science;
- Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences;
- Tom Begley, dean of the Lally School of Management; and
- Shekhar Garde, dean of the School Engineering.
Working with their exceptional faculty and staff, the deans continue to lead Rensselaer into achieving ever-higher rankings and recognition.
“Excellent leaders possess three main attributes: vision, focus, and character,” says Breneman. “From these features flow all of the elements of organizational success.”
“Good leaders are empathetic and generous,” says Garde. “They imagine, engage, and inspire to bring out the best in people and to effect positive change.”
“Good leaders spend more time listening than talking,” says Begley. “They are lifelong learners who recognize the value of collaboration and empathy.”
“A great leader should inspire passion and empower people toward a shared vision,” says Simoni.
“Successful leadership is about broadening the opportunities for others,” says Douglis. “Devising creative solutions to complex problems, reimagining the world in novel ways, and building an inspired culture of exploration and inquiry among a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty that results in a meaningful and an impactful transformation.”
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ranks 14th among top STEM colleges and universities, according to a new ranking by Forbes. To put together the list of Top 25 STEM Colleges 2018, Forbes drew from College Scorecard’s database of schools where 50 percent or more students major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Rensselaer is the nation’s first technological research university, and has an almost 200-year history of producing graduates who have helped to shape and advance the world. These distinguished individuals have forged frontiers in industry, science, education, and technology. They have built bridges, probed outer space, revolutionized new industries and technologies, and discovered new knowledge.
“When Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1824, Stephen Van Rensselaer set forth our mission that still guides us today: to apply science to the common purposes of life,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “It is that very mission that has given rise to decades of courageous exploration. Faculty and students continue to demonstrate a relentless curiosity and unwavering commitment to understand and solve the world’s most precarious challenges.”
Since joining Rensselaer in 1999, President Jackson has led a transformation of the university’s pedagogical and research approach under the construct of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic emphasizes and supports collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address the great global challenges of our day, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer.