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Making A Difference

PACE Contribution Provides Unprecedented Capabilities to Students

New goal for Renaissance at Rensselaer campaign

Photo by Kris Qua

On Sept. 8, before an auditorium teeming with faculty, staff, and students, Rensselaer announced an in-kind contribution commercially valued at $513.95 million from the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE).

A collective gasp of surprise and excitement filled the room and the crowd rose to its feet in celebration as Larry Burns, vice president of research & development and strategic planning for General Motors, announced the commercial value of the contribution to Rensselaer — the largest initial contribution by PACE in its history and largest in-kind contribution in Rensselaer’s history. The gift will grow in value as Rensselaer continues as a PACE institution and new software and equipment is contributed.

A joint philanthropic initiative of General Motors, EDS, Sun Microsystems, and UGS Corp., PACE supports key academic institutions worldwide with computer-based design tools to prepare students to compete in the future.

The comprehensive modeling and simulation tools from PACE will allow students to work with the latest software used by major corporations, enhancing their ability to design projects ranging from more efficient factories and hybrid vehicles to the flow of blood through artificial heart valves. These tools offer exciting opportunities for students to collaborate on design projects at the intersection of multiple technology-based fields. At various times and within special courses, most undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to use the PACE software.

The gift resulted in total contributions to Rensselaer’s capital campaign, Renaissance at Rensselaer: The Campaign for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, exceeding the $1 billion mark. On Sept. 11, President Jackson announced a vote by the Board of Trustees to increase the campaign goal from $1 billion to $1.4 billion. The extended campaign will close June 30, 2009.

“Additional support is essential to realizing the full potential of The Rensselaer Plan as we strive to increase the Institute endowment and continue to implement the Plan in the years ahead,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “This support will enable us to add new faculty constellations and chairs and scholarships and fellowships for our students; expand our research capabilities in biotechnology and the life sciences; realize the potential of the unique and unparalleled Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center; and build state-of-the-art facilities for our students in the East Campus Athletic Village.”

The PACE contribution helps support the overarching goal of The Rensselaer Plan, to gain greater prominence in the 21st century as a top-tier, world-class research university with global reach and global impact. Key components of the plan, such as providing students with a technology-rich educational experience, furthering education for working professionals, advancing scientific and technological entrepreneurship, and creating dynamic living and learning communities across campus will be enhanced by the addition of the PACE tools.

The newly acquired software will benefit students across all five schools on campus–in science, engineering, architecture, the arts, management, and the humanities and social sciences. A management student, for example, could use the software package to collaborate on project management with other PACE institutions (there are 37, with the addition of Rensselaer) across the U.S. and the world. Numerous applications at the intersection of technology and the arts also are possible.

“As educators we must prepare students for the global economy. This visionary partnership combines the innovative curriculum at Rensselaer with the tools and talents of the PACE partners to create an even more technology-rich, multidisciplinary learning environment for our students,” said President Jackson during the event. “The PACE partnership reflects our mutual goal to prepare the next generation of innovators. This historic in-kind contribution to Rensselaer advances our relationship with these leading global corporations and demonstrates their appreciation for the education Rensselaer offers our students and for the expertise of our faculty in educating them to change the world.”

“Computers and math are critical to every aspect of business so it’s essential for engineering students to be proficient at using the latest computer-aided engineering programs and systems,” Burns said. “That’s why the PACE program and institutions like Rensselaer are vital. Our common goal is to help train engineers to succeed in the rapidly evolving engineering environment of the future.”

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