The Rensselaer campus was awash in red last fall. The typically vibrant colors of fall leaves were complemented by a sea of red banners, T-shirts, posters, and more as the Institute readied for the launch of a capital campaign designed to position Rensselaer for its third century of leadership in research and education.
On October 13, President Shirley Ann Jackson hosted alumni, guests, and campus members at a gala celebration to kick off “Transformative: Campaign for Global Change,” which seeks to raise $1 billion for student scholarships, faculty support, and campus enhancements (see, also, President’s View).
At the event in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, President Jackson announced that the Institute has already raised $400 million through the support of alumni, corporations, and foundations.
“With the capital campaign we launch tonight, we are preparing Rensselaer to continue educating the most inventive young people on Earth, well into its third century,” said President Jackson. “We are confident about our future, because today Rensselaer is thriving. Demand for a Rensselaer education has never been higher.”
The Transformative Campaign is co-chaired by Board of Trustees member Paul Severino ’69 and his wife, Kathleen. “It was the Rensselaer culture that made me a good engineer. But more significantly, it was the Rensselaer culture that gave me the confidence needed to take the risks required to start my companies — and make them successful,” said Paul Severino.
The campaign will provide needed resources for Rensselaer to prepare students to address the critical issues of today and the emerging needs of tomorrow.
The campaign has three main pillars:
To bridge the gap that exists between student need and available financial aid resources;
To realize the Faculty 500, which will attract talented professors whose research and teaching will empower Rensselaer graduates and change the world; and
To build out the campus by modernizing the academic, research, and student life facilities that enable the Institute to transform students into the next generation of resilient and inspired leaders.
As the anticipation and excitement was building toward the campaign launch, President Jackson hosted a number of events for the Rensselaer community to join in the celebration, including an ice cream social for students and a campuswide barbecue on '86 Field.
During Reunion & Homecoming weekend, alumni got to see and hear firsthand how a Rensselaer education is helping to solve global challenges.
At RED Talks, researchers highlighted solutions to societally important challenges where Rensselaer is playing a leading role. RED (Research, Education, and Discovery) Talks topics included climate, AI, the arts, synthetic biology, and more.
During Passport to Rensselaer, alumni were guided through an immersive experience demonstrating The New Polytechnic — with seminars, tours, research presentations, and more showcasing how students and faculty collaborate across disciplines, across sectors, and across global regions to harness the power of advanced tools and technologies to address the complex global challenges and opportunities of today.
In “Impact on the Global Challenges: Rensselaer Alumnae in Position To Create Change,” President Jackson moderated a panel discussion with Rensselaer alumnae who are top executives in major businesses and industry. Participants talked about how they are positioning their companies to address the global challenges — including cybersecurity, data exploration and applications, technology, and advanced materials — and to change the world.
In addition to President Jackson, the panel included Rensselaer Trustee Wanda Denson-Low ’78, retired senior vice president, Office of Internal Governance, The Boeing Company; Rensselaer Trustee Linda Pitzi Jojo ’87, ’92G, United Airlines executive vice president, technology, and chief digital officer; former Rensselaer Trustee Linda Sanford ’75G, executive for The Carlyle Group and former IBM senior vice president, enterprise transformation; and Kristin Ann Seaver ’90, ’98 EMBA, United States Postal Service chief information officer and executive vice president.
“An investment in the Transformative Campaign is an investment in the future of humankind,” says Kobie Boykins ’96, section manager of payload and spacecraft mechanical engineering at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “And the return on that investment is the next disruptive technology or the next thing that creates a whole new market. It could be the capability to clean the air or desalinate water, or something truly science-fiction-y, like creating matter from energy or being able to travel faster than the speed of light. Those are the types of ideas — the types of possibilities — that Rensselaer and this campaign are about.”
“Access to clean fresh water is essential to industry, ecosystems, and life itself. But fresh water comprises less than 1% of the water on the planet,” says Rick Relyea, the David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed Chair, director of the Margaret A. and David M. Darrin ’40 Fresh Water Institute, and director of the Jefferson Project at Lake George, a partnership among Rensselaer, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George. “The Jefferson Project is an unprecedented effort to use the most advanced technology to study human impacts on freshwater lakes in a way that has never been done before anywhere in the world.
“We couldn’t execute something as complex as the Jefferson Project without drawing on the interdisciplinary strengths of Rensselaer — the combination of everything from engineering to computer science to the arts,” Relyea says. “An investment in the Transformative Campaign is an investment in those strengths, and an advance on similarly ambitious and necessary projects.”
In her address, President Jackson highlighted the three pillars of the campaign.
“By investing in scholarships, we will ensure that the Rensselaer educational experience is accessible to even more of the students who will use their talent and ambition to change the world,” she said. “By investing in academic innovation, we will ensure our curriculum prepares our students for futures that we can only just begin to see. By investing in endowed faculty chairs and their cross-disciplinary research support, we will ensure our leadership in the discovery and application of the latest ideas in science and technology. By investing in campus resources, we will continue to eliminate barriers between people and disciplines, deepen our collaborative culture, and make us the model for how intellectual inquiry, civic engagement, and our creative talent can be supported.”
“As we consider the world around us, the stakes are high. The opportunities are clear. The urgency is daunting,” said President Jackson. “It is within your power to set in motion transformative change — not merely in your own careers and lives — but on a larger scale, by joining with Rensselaer to ensure that the most inventive, ingenious, and dedicated young men and women on Earth emanate from our classrooms, laboratories, and makerspaces for generations to come.
“Together, we amplify our efforts to improve the world,” she said. “Together, we set off a cascade of virtuous effects and positive change that will have impacts around the globe. Together, we are transformative.”