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Robert Palazzo: Elevating the Institute

Since joining Rensselaer in 2002, Robert Palazzo has been instrumental in raising the Institute’s profile as an international hub of science. He has played key roles in recruiting world-class faculty and researchers, in dramatically increasing federal research grants, and in establishing the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies as a top-ranked research facility.

Now, as provost, Palazzo is building on those efforts, collaborating with officials and faculty throughout the Institute to further strengthen academic and research programs and to elevate Rensselaer to the top tier of technological research universities.

Palazzo assumed the position of provost July 1, 2007, the same day he began his term as president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Both positions underscore his stature as a national leader in his field. As FASEB president, he is the head and lead spokesperson for the organization that’s recognized as the principal voice of the biomedical research community. As provost, he is Rensselaer’s chief academic officer, responsible for helping fulfill the Institute’s obligations to students and, through them, to the world.

“The quality of students at Rensselaer brings a deep sense of responsibility to the Office of the Provost to ensure that we offer them the very best in educating them as the technological leaders of tomorrow,” he says. “What we do for them now will emanate throughout the world and, as such, reflects the care, wisdom, and scholarship of our faculty.”

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Robert Palazzo, provost, Rensselaer. (Photo by Lonny Kalfus)
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Included in Palazzo’s responsibilities is the realignment of faculty governance to reflect Rensselaer’s transformation over the past eight years and its long-term goals. It has been at least a decade since faculty governance has been examined, and the structure that was in place is inconsistent with the Institute’s increased emphasis on the role of tenured and tenure-track faculty.

“Tenured and tenure-track faculty have a career-long commitment to them by the Institute,” Palazzo explains. “This affords them a special role as stewards of the Institute’s core mission of teaching, research, and service. With this privilege comes important responsibility, including that of advising, in a constructive manner, the senior administration on academic matters.”

At Palazzo’s recommendation, the Institute is now in the midst of a faculty governance review which will be guided, in part, by faculty governance principles at leading, selective private research universities, and by the research and analysis of national higher education associations, including the Association of Governing Boards, the American Association of University Professors, and the Association of American Universities. The process will involve all faculty, with special responsibility given to the tenured and tenure-track faculty.

“I am confident that we will emerge from the review process with an effective faculty governance system and enhanced unity, in pursuit of our shared vision for an ever-stronger Rensselaer,” Palazzo says.

Before his appointment as provost, Palazzo served as acting provost, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and professor and chair of biology. Previously, he was a visiting professor at Harvard University Medical School and spent 10 years in a variety of roles at the University of Kansas. Palazzo holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a doctorate in biological sciences from Wayne State University. He studied as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.