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Welcome Remarks

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

Undergraduate Accepted Student Celebration
Alumni Sports and Recreation Center (Armory)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Saturday, April 9, 2005

As President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I am very pleased to welcome all of you to our campus, and to a day which is devoted especially to you — a day to help you discover Rensselaer.

Through your college choice, you are about to make a very pivotal decision about your futures. I hope that this day enables you to make that decision with clarity, knowledge, and enthusiasm. Of course, I hope that, in the end, you choose Rensselaer.

When you choose Rensselaer, you become part of a long and rich tradition of academic excellence, discovery and innovation, entrepreneurship, and creative expression. Here you will forge friendships and develop interests that will last a lifetime.

Rensselaer has been in existence for 181 years. One hundred and eighty-one years means that you will walk in the footsteps of people who helped to shape the 19th, 20th, and, now, the 21st centuries. From the bridge builders and inventors of the 19th century, to the engineers of the space age, and the entrepreneurs of today's high-technology industries, Rensselaer graduates have shaped — and, have changed — our world. They include:

  • Washington Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge;
  • Milton Brumer, chief engineer in charge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world;
  • J. Erik Jonsson, founder of Texas Instruments;
  • Marcian E. Hoff, the "father of the microprocessor," which made so much of today's technology possible; the list goes on.

They, also, are prominent in today's world:

  • Motorola Chief Executive Officer Ed Zander;
  • NCAA President Myles Brand;
  • Filmmaker Bobby Farrelly (I am sure many of you are familiar with his work, including There's Something About Mary, his current movie Fever Pitch, and others);
  • Former NHL hockey star Adam Oates;
  • Team leaders in the key design aspects of the Mars rovers;
  • Ray Tomlinson, inventor of e-mail;
  • Curtis Priem, a co-founder of NVidia and a pioneer of the graphics processor, which made possible the creation of the Xbox;
  • And, in an example of the continuum of innovation at Rensselaer, this, in turn, made possible the video game development company Vicarious Visions, which is led and staffed by Rensselaer alumni.

All of these Rensselaer graduates exemplify the achievement of excellence in very diverse fields. In joining Rensselaer, you are becoming part of a rich history of producing the leaders who have shaped — and who are shaping — our world.

These graduates were and are all visionaries in their special ways, just as Rensselaer is a visionary and forward-looking university. We are undergoing a Renaissance in all facets of this Institute, as we take our place as one of the handful of universities that are shaping this century. The changes are evident wherever you turn on this campus. Right across the street is our new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, which opened last September. This world-class facility provides innovative and open space for faculty researchers working with graduate students and undergraduates. That means if you have an interest in this emerging, and engaging, field you will have an opportunity, through our Undergraduate Research Program, to work with some of the top researchers in their fields in this leading-edge building. (The same opportunity exists in other research areas through this program.)

A bit further west on the hillside overlooking 8th Street, you will see construction of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. EMPAC — as we call it — will be unique in the United States. The center will build on Rensselaer's solid reputation for excellence in the electronic arts. It will offer a place for students and the entire campus community to experience the intersection of the arts, sciences, technology, and the imagination, with a 1,200-seat concert hall, 400-seat theater, rehearsal spaces, a total immersive visual reality black-box studio, a digital broadcast studio for WRPI — our campus radio station, and recording and editing facilities, among many other features. This exciting building is scheduled to open while you are at Rensselaer, with the grand-opening festival planned for September 2008.

Our faculty is growing at an unprecedented rate, and they continue to bring honor to the Institute, with prestigious awards for research and teaching. We are hiring new faculty in carefully chosen focal areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology. We also have hired across all schools, and, essentially, all academic departments of Rensselaer. With a student/faculty ratio of 11 to 1 for undergraduates, you will have the opportunity to learn from, and work closely with, these talented and inspiring professors who enable students to ask "why" and "what if," not just "how."

The fact is, at Rensselaer, you will work harder than you have ever worked before. But, not just alone with a book or with your laptop. You will have many opportunities to work in teams, and to engage in hands-on learning, designing, creating, and building. For example, a group of Rensselaer students placed fifth in the nation in a competition to design a car powered by a chemical energy source. Their winning car — "The RPI Bullet" — was made of Legos and powered by a Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell. The team qualified to compete in the international competition to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in July.

You can engage in high-end research areas, in broad fields, in world-class design in engineering and/or architecture; you can minor in Game Studies — the theory and the visualization and animation. You can blend it with technology, study semiconductor physics, computer science, the list goes on and on.

Outside the classroom, Rensselaer offers myriad opportunities for fun, to challenge yourselves intellectually and physically, and to pursue interests and passions. The Princeton Review recently ranked Rensselaer third on their "More to Do on Campus list." Clubs, organizations, and sports teams abound on campus — there are more than 150 from which to choose; or you can start one. Rensselaer has a strong tradition in ice hockey — the men's team has won two national championships, and the women's team will begin playing at the Division I level this fall. Cheering these teams on in the Houston Field House is a time-honored way of showing school spirit at Rensselaer.

But, athletics goes far beyond hockey to 22 varsity sports for men and women. More than 5,000 students participate in intramurals, club, and recreational sports — from swimming to tennis to sailing to skiing — and beyond — here in Troy, at Lake George, throughout the Capital Region, and in the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Berkshires of Massachusetts — all within a half-hour drive of campus. This is a culturally rich and intellectually diverse campus and region, with music, drama, dance, and art abounding. It is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. You will be exposed to world-class leaders who come to campus — from Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve to Nobel Prize winners, to corporate CEOs, to leading artists.

We, also, offer a strong Greek Life program, community service opportunities, social and cultural events, and a growing number of spaces on campus in which to gather with friends or plug in your laptop and get some work done while sipping a latte; for example, you can connect to the campus network at the new Java ++ cafÈ down the street. And, you should know that Princeton Review ranked Rensselaer the "most connected" campus in the country. The Princeton Review merely reflected what we here know already — mobile computing and connectedness is a way of life at Rensselaer.

I believe you will find this is an exciting time to be a student at Rensselaer. Peter Baldwin, Class of 2006 and President of the Rensselaer Union, who is on stage this morning, said it best when he noted: "This year has been an exciting and historical year for the Rensselaer community. Change has been the norm; in fact, the very landscape of our campus is transforming as we continue with the Renaissance at Rensselaer." As a Rensselaer student, you will become part of, and benefit from, a historic transformation of this university, a transformation rooted in our long and rich history, and powered by a vision of the Institute as a world-renowned leader in education and research that will change the world.

This, also, is an exciting time to be a young person embarking on a college career. The world is rapidly changing. We are in a time that The New York Times writer Thomas Friedman calls "Globalization 3.0." Mr. Friedman believes that "The past 20 years were about forging, sharpening, and distributing all the new tools to collaborate and connect. Now the real information revolution is about to begin, as all the complementarities among those collaborative tools start to converge." We offer that kind of a world here at Rensselaer.

A Rensselaer education will prepare you to be leaders in this turbocharged worldóleaders with vision, with knowledge, and with imagination.

Indeed, at Rensselaer, we ask: "Why not change the world?" This is both a question and an invitation. And, it is a challenge which has been taken on by thousands of Rensselaer graduates since our founding in 1824.

We extend that invitation to you.

So, today, I challenge you: How will you change the world? I invite you to discover the answer to that question here, at Rensselaer.

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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