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The 2008 Presidential Spring Town Meeting: “New Directions for Rensselaer”

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

Spring 2008 Town Meeting
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Monday, March 17, 2008


Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. And, greetings to our colleagues in Hartford, who are watching via simulcast, and to those who are watching the Web cast.

There is a great deal of good news to convey. I would like to begin by highlighting a few recent special events and announcements. Then, I will move to a brief summary of our progress, to date, under the guidance of The Rensselaer Plan.

Next, I will give you an overview of the year ahead — the “New Directions for Rensselaer” — guided by the budget which the Rensselaer Board of Trustees recently approved for Fiscal Year 2009, and which begins July 1.

Finally, I will have a special announcement about Commencement.

I would like to leave ample time to respond to your questions and your thoughts and to engage in dialogue.

Many of you know that I attended the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January. This year’s theme was “The Power of Collaborative Innovation.”

I was invited to participate in a plenary session on nuclear energy and nuclear nonproliferation, and to lead discussions on the role of nuclear energy in climate change mitigation and on techno-nationalism.

Among several of the sessions in which I was invited to participate was the Global University Leaders Forum, which addressed a variety of issues, including:

  • Partnerships for education and models for the future;
  • Strategies for the globalization of the university, especially capacity building in universities in developing countries;
  • Collaborations promoting faculty development, use of technology and sustainable campuses.
  • Embedded in these, of course, are challenges to global institutional governance.

The Global University Leaders Forum agreed that its focus would be on capacity building in universities in developing countries, and on sustainable campus development at our home institutions, through commitments to reduce energy usage and carbon footprint. We already have a student-driven sustainability initiative at Rensselaer, which will be conjoined with an administration initiative under the guidance of Laban Coblentz, and a research agenda under the leadership of Professor Wolf Von Maltzahn.

In fact, even though our federal research expenditures have almost doubled in the last six years, and our physical plant at the Troy Campus has expanded by 602,700 square feet over the last 8 years, our energy usage per square foot has dropped by 15 percent over the same time period.

Our invitation to and presence at the premier global gathering of government, business, and academic leaders, bespeaks a new level of global recognition for Rensselaer.

On another topic: We are very proud of the Lally School Management & Technology. BusinessWeek has ranked it 26th in the nation among the magazine’s 2008 list of top 50 undergraduate business programs. The Lally School, also, is ranked as one of the top five in the Northeast, and the program came in at number 19 on the list of private institutions offering students the biggest return on their investment. Last year, the Lally School was one of nine new schools to be named to BusinessWeek’s list, making its debut at number 40. We say: Congratulations to the faculty and the students of Lally School of Management & Technology!

On a lighter note — or, perhaps, I should say on a darker note: there has been a great deal of media attention to a carbon nanotube array created by a Rensselaer research team, which absorbs 99.9 percent of the light shone upon it. A story on the creation of what is being called “the darkest material ever made” was carried on the front page of The Washington Post and in a variety of other media. The research team was led by Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics and a member of our Future Chips Constellation. The news made it into the National Public Radio quiz show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” for its feature the “Listener Limerick Challenge,” in which the contestant has to submit the final word, testing their awareness of the week’s news accounts.

Existentialist jaws grow more slack;
It’s like nothingness! Sartre strikes back!
Now poor helpless light,
Must give up the fight,
And surrender to this deep dark BLACK.

The program’s hosts credited the researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

And while we are having a little fun, some of you may have followed the crossword puzzle career of Tyler Hinman, Class of 2006, who has just clinched the top title in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament — for the fourth consecutive time — a record-breaker . . . sporting a red Rensselaer baseball cap.

And now, to the business at hand — the highlights of our progress and some new directions for Rensselaer.

We have had some important administrative changes. I am pleased to introduce to you Mr. Laban Coblentz, who joined the Institute February 1 as Associate Vice President of Policy and Planning and Chief of Staff to the President. Dr. Cynthia McIntyre, who previously held this position, recently married, and now is Senior Vice President for the Council on Competitiveness in Washington, D.C., responsible for strategic operations, planning, and development.

Mr. Coblentz helps me to oversee the strategic priorities of the Rensselaer Technology Park, and the Rensselaer Office of Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and New Ventures, and leads a steering committee which provides oversight for EMPAC, to guide its program development and implementation. He comes to us from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Vienna, Austria, where he was strategic advisor to, and communications specialist for, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA Director General. Mr. Coblentz, also, was Senior Advisor to me when I was Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), where he provided important strategic analysis, and helped to drive agency-wide strategic changes. Please join me in welcoming Laban Coblentz.

Another important addition to our leadership team, whom we announced in December, is Mr. James A. Knowlton who started here just a couple of weeks ago. He comes to us from the United States Military Academy at West Point where he has held a variety of positions in the athletics departments. He attended West Point, was captain of his varsity ice hockey team, and later served as a graduate assistant on the ice hockey coaching staff. After 10 years of organizational leadership positions in the U.S. Army, he returned to West Point following the completion of a graduate engineering degree from Cornell University, and taught Civil and Mechanical Engineering. Let us give James A. Knowlton a welcoming hand.

With our growing global reputation, expansion of an exceptionally distinguished faculty, and an enhanced graduate and undergraduate living and learning environment, prospective students are hearing about the unique opportunities at Rensselaer.

Our enrollment numbers continue their outstanding climb.

  • We have had 80,503 inquiries for the incoming Class of 2012, compared to 54,000 last year.
  • Out of these, we have had more than 11,200 applications — another record — up 10 percent over last year.
  • These numbers represent growth of 100 percent since 2005.

Also since 2005 —

  • Applications from women students have risen by more than 134 percent.
  • Applications from underrepresented minorities have increased by more than 203 percent.
  • Applications from students outside the northeast went up by more than 200 percent.
  • Applications from students interested in the arts, humanities, and social sciences have increased by more than 305 percent.

As we accept students for next year’s entering class, the quality is exceptional. 75 percent are in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and the average SAT score is up 14 points with a very strong mathematics average.

Not only is the quality excellent, but we are realizing a selectivity rate of 39.8 percent, down from 49 percent from last year and far below the 80 percent selectivity rate of just five years ago.

Already, we have received about 43,000 inquiries for the Class of 2013, (which enters in the fall of 2009). Graduate applications are expected to exceed 3,000. Both are 20 percent ahead of this time last year.

Our six-year graduation rate for undergraduates has climbed to 82 percent and our freshman to sophomore retention rate has reached 93 percent — a substantial improvement from the 1990s.

Rensselaer at Hartford has had a 25 percent increase over last year which, in turn, was an 80 percent increase over the year before. Twenty six cohort programs (13 existing programs — 13 new programs) - reflect 57 percent of all registrations. Registrations, in terms of credit hours, almost doubled from FY’05 to FY ’08 to 14,400.

Our diligence in faculty recruitment, forecast in The Rensselaer Plan, is working well. We have engaged in aggressive recruitment from 2001 through 2007. As the work of Professor Shawn Yu Lin illustrates, as our research discoveries and innovations accelerate, and as our research expenditure growth also shows, our investment in the Constellation faculty concept is showing returns, as are our investments in other faculty recruitment.

We had projected hiring an additional 33 faculty members. We have recruited 29 to date — 24 of whom will begin within FY’08, with another 5 to start during FY’09.

We continue to make great strides in research. And, our research enterprise thrives, in part, because of strong cross-disciplinary interactions among faculty from different schools and departments.

We compare favorably to our peer and aspirant institutions in an analysis of federal research and development expenditures.

The Rensselaer Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) became fully operational at the end 2007, and continues to be first in the academic sector on Top500.org list — and 12th overall. Our program partners include IBM, Cadence Design Systems, Northrop Grumman, Simmetrix, and small high-tech businesses, such as Gene Network Sciences. And, we are in ongoing conversations with AMD, GE, State of Connecticut, and others. We are pursuing a Consortium for Computational Science and Technology with the Wadsworth Center of the NYS Department of Health and the NYS University Faculty Groups. Our search for a CCNI Director continues.

Now, I will provide an overview of the budget for Fiscal Year 2009 which the Board of Trustees approved last month. The approved budget enables us to continue investing in The Rensselaer Plan vision and the Rensselaer transformation — meeting the complex demands of the current global environment in which discovery, knowledge creation, and innovation will help to address the global demands of energy security, climate change, disease pandemic, water scarcity, and other challenges.

These global imperatives, of course, currently are embedded in a weakened economy and a credit crisis which is impacting bond insurers and the economics and structuring of tax-exempt debt, and financial institutions worldwide.

Within this economic environment, it is important to adhere to our vision and our goals, and to remain focused on the long term.

  • For our next fiscal year — FY2009 — which begins July 1, we will, as always, adhere to a balanced budget. The trustees approved a $396.7 million budget.
  • Our total investment in The Rensselaer Plan, from the beginning in 2000 will top $800 million by fiscal year end 2009.
  • The Trustees have approved an undergraduate and full-time graduate tuition rate increase of 5.9 percent to $36,950. This tuition is necessary to offer the full complement of quality education which we strive to provide. The increase keeps Rensselaer in the “middle of the pack” relative to tuition rates at our peer institutions. It is important to keep in mind that 46 percent of the total undergraduate tuition revenue is returned to nearly 90 percent of undergraduate students in the form of financial aid.
  • There, also, is an increase in room and board of 3 percent to $10,730.

Now — because 88 percent of Rensselaer undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, and, because we know that a tuition increase can present a challenge, Rensselaer has expanded financial aid by more than $10 million in new resources. This brings the financial aid budget to about $80 million for undergraduate students during the coming year — a figure which exceeds aid at most of our peer institutions. It, also, ensures that Rensselaer remains accessible to academically talented students from the full range of family financial circumstances.

What has made this possible? We have had a major addition to the general financial aid budget. There have been significant increases in financial aid funds from endowment and philanthropic sources. The Trustees have approved new funding for summer program aid, and have arranged for increases in work-study wage rates. And finally, we have arranged for special assistance to students pursuing a new co-terminal bachelor’s/master’s degree program.

We have added several graduate financial aid enhancements. In addition to the co-terminal program, Rensselaer, also, will expand the Presidential Scholars program, providing full admission through to the Ph.D. and increasing the aid budget for that program by $1.5 million. The Trustees approved raising the minimum graduate student academic year stipend from $14,500 to $16,000 — to be more competitive with other research universities. A maternity leave policy is funded, and admitted student travel funding has been provided.

And, there are other financial aid enhancements available.

Nationally, growth in federal funding has been slowing, from a peak of 10 percent growth in 2001 to 2003, to less than 5 percent, during last year.

That the Rensselaer faculty have achieved a 6 percent award growth during a highly competitive time, bodes well for our FY2009 projection of 5 percent growth.

With some funding for the American Competitiveness Initiative — and hopefully more to come — Rensselaer, leveraging its platforms and with aggressive faculty hiring, is well positioned to compete. The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, as one example, which opened just three and a half years ago, now directly generates $10 million in research expenditures per year.

A distinguished faculty that aspires to excellence in research, and in teaching, is the very foundation of our university. It is our academic credential and our standard. Investment in our faculty is among our highest priorities, and we are proceeding to do that on an accelerated basis. We are accelerating faculty renewal and expect to hire 50 faculty in fiscal year 2009, including Constellation faculty.

The FY 2009 budget includes investment in programming and administration for the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), and also for the East Campus Athletic Village (ECAV).

Our budget for next year, continues to provide stable pay growth and competitive benefits for faculty and staff and includes salary increases that will be linked to our annual merit and performance management processes.

The budget maintains competitive benefits that include enhancements such as a pinch hitter and elder care service, and improved life and travel insurance coverage.

Regarding academic programs, we will continue to grow opportunities for undergraduate research, and are phasing in a required international experience for all undergraduates. Several new opportunities for study abroad, including faculty-led study programs, will begin next summer. As noted earlier, we are making a coterminal degree option available to students to pursue the BS and MS degrees simultaneously.

The School of Engineering will begin its international program for Engineering undergraduates by sending a first cohort of engineering juniors abroad in the spring of 2009. The Provost’s Office is collaborating on a plan for a university-wide committee to oversee implementation of international programs and student management.

I know you will be interested to learn that the Trustees approved a name adaptation for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS). The new name is the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), recognizing the growth of arts practices across the campus, to align academic programs with EMPAC priorities, and to advocate for arts as key to social, cultural, and economic development.

I believe this significant milestone deserves a round of applause for the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

The School of Architecture will extend its undergraduate study abroad program with the Center for Environmental Planning & Technology (CEPT) in Ahmadabad, India, in the spring of 2009. On the graduate side, the School of Architecture has established a Built Ecologies pilot program in New York City, which we hope to expand in the future, with a Center for Architectural Sciences with Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), one of the major architectural firms in New York City.

Rensselaer at Hartford will begin an International Scholars Program with a class of approximately 40 students. It also will begin new programs in Professional and Executive Education in Healthcare Management, Innovation, Alternative Energy, Finance, and MS-MBA Modernization.

One of the most exciting initiatives funded under the FY 2009 budget are new programs to enrich Student Life, which leverage our current success in the First-Year Experience, living and learning initiatives, and the arts, to transform the overall undergraduate student experience.

A new residence life model — Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students (CLASS) — provides for the guidance and academic progress of all Rensselaer students, and for the support and development of community, regardless of whether students live on or off campus.

Newly hired residence Cluster Deans will live in the residence halls, and facilitate living and learning communities, providing outreach, and counseling, as well as experiential and community development programs.

Newly hired associate Deans for Off-Campus Student Living, and Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, will ensure that residence life programs and services are readily available to all Rensselaer students.

Undergraduate Class Deans will create sustained pathways for personal growth and academic progression, facilitating affinity group development and class identity.

The clustering is both residential (in the living environment) and time-based (through class clustering).

Our efforts extend to our growing graduate student body, as well. A Dean for the Graduate Experience will ensure that programs and services reach our busy graduate students.

Student Life is partnering with the EMPAC team to create more campus awareness of and connection to this transformational venue. This partnership will generate new arts and signature programs; use campus facilities as performance platforms including the Union, the Houston Field House, and the East Campus Athletic Village; and will develop and implement revenue models to sustain support for new arts initiatives.

We will complete our $1.4 billion capital campaign next year. The campaign is helping to develop a culture of philanthropy at Rensselaer.

Students across campus are proud of Rensselaer. The Class of 2011 has embarked on the pathway to make an historic class gift to Rensselaer when they graduate — aiming for 100 percent participation. This class is the first to start on this track as freshmen. They are an inspiration, not only to the classes that are here with them, today, but, also, to classes who have come before them and who will come after them — to step up support Rensselaer.

The classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010 each have their own goals, and are working hard to support Rensselaer in our historic Campaign.

Facilities Upgrades

Exterior of West Hall and Winslow Building. We begin the final phase of the five-year plan to restore the exterior of West Hall this spring, and anticipate that it will be completed this fall. The work will restore the Eighth Street entrance, and the east side of the building. To compliment the work on West Hall this summer, we also will complete the exterior restoration of the Winslow Building.

East Campus Athletic Village. The concrete foundation for the arena and stadium are complete. Erection of structural steel is in progress. The Lower Renwyck Fields have been completed and are ready for use this spring. The schematic design for the Houston Field House renovation, also, is complete. Phase 1 of the East Campus Athletic Village will be completed in about 18 months in September of 2009.

Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is 83 percent complete. The installation of cedar on the wood hull is 85 percent complete. Substantial completion of construction and Certificate of Occupancy is scheduled for late June of this year. The installation of research and performance equipment and technology is in progress. Plans are underway for three weeks of opening events in October (beginning October 3-5, 2008) to showcase this unprecedented facility and its transformational capabilities as both an arts platform and a research platform.

Russell Sage Dining Hall. Construction of a 4,500 square foot addition to Russell Sage Dining Hall (RSDH) will increase capacity from 130 to 300. Work on the project, being done in partnership with Sodexho, is in progress, and completion is anticipated for this coming fall.

Carnegie Building. Beginning this coming summer, classrooms in the Carnegie Building will be upgraded, and the 8th Street entrance will be restored.

We have begun work on the Bio-Research Core in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. The work is funded by the Ge*NY*sis grant and the project is scheduled for completion in mid-September.

This fall, we will initiate planning and programming for the new Center for Science, which will replace, expand, and upgrade the existing Science Center, with new laboratory and “Wet Lab” facilities for Biology and Physics. The space will provide 100,000 to 120,000 square feet of new laboratory space for research, and graduate and undergraduate education. This will be accomplished through an addition to the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center, which, itself, will be renovated.

The existing Science Center will be renovated for offices, academic programs, classrooms, dry labs, technology space, and conference space. The Observatory, also, will be renovated. Architectural plans will coordinate with EMPAC and the South Campus Master Plan. Total cost for new construction and renovation will be approximately $70 to $75 million, and, when completed, will reduce deferred maintenance in the overall Center for Science by $20 Million.

This spring, we will begin work on the Research Quad Landscape Project which will enhance the facades of the building cluster which includes the Materials Research Center (MRC), Cogswell Laboratory, and Empire State Hall. It, also, will create a set of landscaped walkways south of the Voorhees Computing Center (VCC). We anticipate that the work will be completed by the fall.

Finally, many of you already know that we have launched a project to convert the former Best Western Rensselaer Inn — at the foot of the Rensselaer Approach — into a state-of-the-art residence hall for about 300 Rensselaer undergraduate students. The facility will be ready for occupancy in May/June of 2009.

The Best Western will be renovated for student occupancy with 148 rooms, an apartment for live-in professional staff, and four rooms for resident assistants. The Rensselaer upperclassmen will bring to more than 450 the number of Rensselaer community members located in downtown Troy, and further strengthen the linkage between the Troy campus and downtown.

Rensselaer has structured the project as a lease arrangement with developers, deliberately leaving the property on the tax rolls of the City of Troy and the Enlarged City School District of Troy.

After commencement, we will begin the renovation and upgrade of Sharp Hall. This work, which will be completed this summer, includes refurbishing the building’s interior, new windows, new electrical distribution and lighting, upgraded bathrooms, new roof, new fire alarms, and improved air conditioning and ventilation and accessibility.

Demolition of Neighborhood Structures: The next phase of the Institute’s Neighborhood Master Plan will be completed this spring with the demolition of 15 deteriorated residential structures located on lower College Avenue, Eighth Street, and Federal Street. When demolition is complete, the properties will be restored and provided with new sidewalks, fences, landscaping and streetscaping, including a new Institute “Gateway” to be located at Peoples and Eighth Street.

We, also, have begun work on another Neighborhood Improvement Project with the restoration and renovation of 86-90 College Avenue to house artists-in-residence and researchers who will be working in EMPAC.

Let me stop for a moment and pull all of this into context for you.

The Fiscal Year 2009 budget is almost double that of nine years ago. Despite a very difficult fiscal environment, and a weak economic outlook, the Board, in approving this budget, is demonstrating its continued confidence in our impressive achievements under The Rensselaer Plan.

Now, let me reiterate why.

  • Our ambitious faculty hiring and Constellation hiring,
  • the resulting robust research performance,
  • the voluminous demand for a Rensselaer education by both undergraduate and graduate applicants
  • the much improved retention rates,
  • the climbing graduation rates,
  • the building of unique research platforms and the associated programs that we have created, and are still building,
  • our continued renovation and revitalization of the Rensselaer campus,
  • our tracking forward the successful completion of our Capital Campaign
  • our endowment growth
  • the invitations to our faculty to participate in the highest level global educational and science and technology forums, my invitation to Davos and the Global University Leaders Forum is but one.

— all of these, together, bring recognition to Rensselaer and illustrate the promise of what is to come.

The Board of Trustees recognizes and endorses these solid elements and evidence of progress.

Before I conclude, I draw your attention to several important and exciting events.

One is the April 25-26 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences giving degrees at Rensselaer, and the 100th birthday of its main building, the Russell Sage Lab. There will be a great variety of activities including what you see on the slide:

Which brings me to EMPAC. As you know, the Curtis R. Priem ’82 Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is nearing completion. Our grand opening festival will take place during the first three weekends in October. Each weekend will highlight a facet of the EMPAC mission and potential, and will demonstrate how those facets can interact, engage, and enlighten.

But, before I get to the details of the grand opening, I will give you an overview of what we envision EMPAC to be and to become. EMPAC operates along five activity streams. In brief they are:

  • Time-based arts
  • A research agenda which includes seeking appropriate partnerships and seed funding.
  • Student Life: our intent is that EMPAC will become a hub of campus interaction — perhaps what one might call a “campus living room” for the student body, as well as an intellectual and social resource for the larger community. Parts of the building will be open to our students most of the time.
  • EMPAC links to academic programs, schools, summer programs
  • “Auxiliary” functions: community or regional/national uses for performances and events.

EMPAC represents outside-the-box thinking — maybe even “leap of faith” thinking — by the leadership of Rensselaer who were willing to risk an unexplored and powerful nexus — a nexus of the sciences and the arts. But more than that, we were unwilling not to risk — if our goal is to move Rensselaer into the top tier of global universities.

This risk, now, has been augmented and given additional definition by the leadership team — the shared vision of EMPAC staff, the cabinet, and faculty who already are doing EMPAC-related research, and, now, increasingly others. Our aim is to create an intellectual community that did not before exist — that has NEVER before existed, and to create a community, an environment, in which the sciences and the arts inspire and transform each other and enable innovation on multiple fronts.

Because EMPAC takes us into entirely uncharted territory, because it is impossible to define the concepts of the future, because we are moving from the information age to the conceptual age — it is logical that EMPAC will be and will become different things to different people. Some envision a platform for research: agent-based modeling, human-scale simulation, haptics, free space optics, computational cognitive science, the interaction of the virtual and physical worlds, and so on. Others see EMPAC as a multi-tiered instrument of music, of movement, and of sound and light. Still others see it as an implement for innovation across a broad spectrum of fields.

If you read the Times of India on Friday, you would have seen an article about “Eddie” — a synthetic or “virtual” four-year-old boy capable of reasoning about his own beliefs and able to draw conclusions. He is the creation of Selmer Bringsjord and his team cognitive science which is uniting artificial intelligence with a game simulations such as Second Life — creating avatars which can reason, hold and act on beliefs, remember, predict, and manipulate the behavior of even human players with whom he interacts. Such characters can be engineered only by coupling logic-based artificial intelligence and computational cognitive modeling techniques — with the processing power, in our case, of the CCNI supercomputer.

The real question is: How will you see it?

I hope that each of you, here this afternoon, will engage with EMPAC programs and explore what meaning EMPAC has for you. I guarantee that it will be challenging. I guarantee that it will be new. I guarantee that it will transform how we regard science, technology, and the arts, and their nexus — how we interact with the future, how we see ourselves as human beings.

The first weekend, October 3-5, which includes the ribbon-cutting and a presidential colloquy, will celebrate the expressive range that can be accommodated by EMPAC, and is a core strength of its mission: from classical music presented in an environment of unprecedented acoustical purity, to interactive multimedia works that test the boundaries of performer and audience, to research exhibitions.

So, in this first gala weekend, viewers and participants will experience work ranging from pieces chosen from the classical canon to “They Watch,” an installation by the collective Workspace Unlimited. Using a modified computer game engine, artificial intelligence, and a 360-degree screen that surrounds viewers, “They Watch” creates an ambiguous hybrid space in which artificial characters respond in real time to the cues of the viewer, interacting with them as seemingly sentient individuals. If your cell phone rings, the call may be coming from inside the screen!

On the second “weekend” (beginning the Thursday after the opening, I should note), EMPAC will host a symposium at Rensselaer featuring eminent researchers from the science and engineering communities in a discussion about where those fields may intersect and connect with EMPAC, and the extent to which they will drive, challenge, augment, and inform each other.

The third weekend will feature artistic performances ranging in media and style, and chosen in collaboration with Student Life, with the intent of reflecting the interests of the Rensselaer student body. It, also, is Rensselaer’s Family Weekend, and will be headlined by popular jazz performer Wynton Marsalis. Other performances will include student groups.

Throughout the opening celebration, exhibits detailing EMPAC’s architectural and artistic history, as well as its future potential as a research platform, will be on display.

Put another way, the three weekends highlight, in turn, arts, science and technology, and campus community — and the impact of EMPAC upon them — with elements of each threaded throughout. I promise it will be interesting.

There is one more exciting and important event — especially for our seniors — of course, and it is commencement. So at this time, I am delighted to share with you the distinguished individuals whom we will honor at the 2008 Commencement ceremony on May 17.

David R. Gergen, Professor of Public Service at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and director of its Center for Public Leadership, will deliver the 2008 commencement address. He is editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report and senior political analyst for CNN. He served as White House advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton.

Two other honorands will join David Gergen at commencement and will participate in the Presidential Colloquy on Friday, May 16th at the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. They are:

General Charles F. Bolden Jr., U.S. Marine Corps (retired), who, after a distinguished military career, also, served from 1981 to 1994 as an astronaut in the United States’ space program. A veteran of four space flights, he has logged over 680 hours in space.

Dr. Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton University, an exceptional teacher, world-renowned scholar, and leader in the field of molecular biology. She served on the Princeton University faculty for 15 years before being named its President.

I hope all of you will attend the colloquy. It provides an opportunity for the campus community to benefit from the thoughts and wisdom of these outstanding leaders, and it always proves to be a lively discussion of the compelling issues and ideas of our time.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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