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Student Leaders Brunch

“Different Talents and Interests United By Courage”

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

ECAV Practice Gym
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Good morning, and thank you all for coming!

Before we head on to the game against Springfield College, I want to say a few words of thanks to all of our leaders, whether they are club presidents, team captains, class officers, or Residence Life staffers. All of you help to make Rensselaer a special place.

As you probably have heard, last year, we refreshed our university-wide strategic plan in advance of the 200th anniversary of our founding in 2024.

The Rensselaer Plan 2024 is designed to do more than transform Rensselaer. It will help to make us even more of a transformative force, in the global impact of our research, in the teaching and learning that takes place here, and in the lives of our students.

We look to you as partners in this endeavor. I hope you read and understand The Plan and its commitments, and help us to make this vision a reality.

The Plan already is enlivening your experience here. We are using new tools to reanimate teaching and learning, so your courses increasingly will employ online components, gamification, immersive environments, artificial intelligence, and new sources of information made accessible and verifiable by advances in web science.

Many of these elements arise out of leading-edge research conducted here. Under The Rensselaer Plan 2024, our research agenda includes two broad new research umbrellas. The first, Beyond the Internet: Digital Meets Reality, focuses on the full range of computational sciences and arts. It will inform the way you learn every subject, as every field increasingly becomes data intensive.

The second umbrella—Infrastructural Resilience, Sustainability, and Stewardship—encompasses affordable health care technologies, transformative materials, and smart logistics and infrastructure of all kinds. You will learn about this umbrella and contribute to it if you study business management, materials science, biomedical engineering, architecture, and many other subjects.

The Rensselaer Plan 2024 intends to make your time at Rensselaer a transformative experience in your lives as a whole. So front and center in the Plan is expanding the support and opportunities available through our Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students, or CLASS.

One of the core CLASS themes is leadership development. We host this leaders’ brunch because we feel it is important to celebrate the courage required, particularly when you are young, to step forward into positions in the public eye. You all are role models by definition.

However, there also are components of leadership that often are less public, such as tact, discretion, tolerance, and curiosity about people who are different from you. Today, we have students here who have demonstrated leadership on-stage, on an athletic field, in a residence hall, or in a civic setting. Your talents and interests have taken you different places.

We have brought you together because we intend for you to be leaders throughout your careers. In this globally interconnected world, you will be influential only to the degree to which you can convene colleagues across all kinds of borders— whether disciplinary, experiential, or national.

Truly to lead, you will have to understand that the world’s great challenges surrounding food, water, and energy security; national and global security; climate impacts, human health, and the allocation of scare natural resources—are your own personal challenges as well.

We hope that you develop the ambition to solve big problems here. We hope that you understand that solving them requires reaching out to people who are equally courageous—in very different venues—and forging new connections and coalitions. So, finally, we hope that you will seize the opportunity to meet someone new at the football game—and conceivably to launch a new venture with him or her.


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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