Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Wikis


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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Motto Knowledge and Thoroughness
Established 1824
Type Private
Endowment US $612 million[1]
President Shirley Ann Jackson
Provost Robert Palazzo [2]
Faculty 496 [3]
Undergraduates 5,394 [3]
Postgraduates 2,127
Location United States Troy, New York, USA
Campus Urban, 275 acres (111 ha)
Athletics 23 varsity teams
2 Division I
21 Division III
Colors Cherry and White          
Mascot The Red Hawk and Puckman
RPI Logo Small.svg

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI, is a private research university located in Troy, New York, United States. It was founded in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer for the "application of science to the common purposes of life", and is the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world.[4] Built on a hillside, RPI's 275-acre (111 ha) campus overlooks the historic city of Troy and the Hudson River and is a blend of traditional and modern architecture. The institute operates an on-campus business incubator and the 1,250-acre (510 ha) Rensselaer Technology Park, and is known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace.[5]

RPI's mission has slowly evolved over the years while retaining a focus on the scientific and technological roots upon which it was founded. Over the past century, RPI has grown into a university with 5 schools: The School of Architecture, The School of Engineering, The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, The School of Science, and the Lally School of Management & Technology. All together, the university offers around 140 degree programs in 60 fields leading to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. RPI consistently ranks in the top 50 among US universities for overall academics and among the top 50 worldwide for technology.[6][7] Adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1995, RPI's current mission is to "educate the leaders of tomorrow for technologically based careers. We celebrate discovery, and the responsible application of technology, to create knowledge and global prosperity."[8]




Stephen Van Rensselaer established the Rensselaer School on November 5, 1824 with a letter to the Rev. Dr. Samuel Blatchford, in which van Rensselaer asked Blatchford to serve as the first president. Within the letter he set down several orders of business. He appointed Amos Eaton as the school's first senior professor and appointed the first board of trustees. On December 29 of that year, the president and the board met and established the methods of instruction, which were rather different from methods employed at other colleges at the time. Students spent six hours a day performing experiments and explaining their rationale and gave their own lectures rather than listening to lectures and watching demonstrations.[9] Tuition was around $40 a semester.[9]

The school opened on Monday, January 3, 1825 at the Old Bank Place, a building at the north end of Troy.[10] The opening was announced by a notice, signed by the president, and printed in the Troy Sentinel on December 28. The school attracted students from New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The fact that the school attracted students from afar is attributed to the reputation of Eaton. Fourteen months of successful trial led to the incorporation of the school on March 21, 1826 by the State of New York. In its early years, the Rensselaer School resembled a graduate school more than it did a college. It drew graduates of older institutions such as Amherst, Bowdoin, Columbia, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Union, Wesleyan, Williams, and Yale. Indeed, there was a considerable stream from Yale, where there were several teachers interested in the sciences.

Engraving of the original Rensselaer School
Engraving of RPI in 1876

During this period, the Rensselaer School, renamed the Rensselaer Institute in 1832, was a small but vital center for technological research. The first Civil Engineering degrees in the United States were granted by the school in 1835, and many of the best remembered civil engineers of that time graduated from the school. Important visiting scholars included Joseph Henry, who had previously studied under Amos Eaton, and Thomas Davenport, who sold the world's first working electric motor to the institute.[11] In 1847, alumnus Benjamin Franklin Greene became the new senior professor. Earlier he had done a thorough study of European technical schools to see how Rensselaer could be improved. In 1850 he reorganized the school into a three-year polytechnic institute with six technical schools.[12] In 1861 the name was changed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.[13]

The severe conflagration of May 10 1862, known as "The Great Fire" destroyed over 507 buildings in Troy and gutted 75 acres in the heart of the city.[14] The "Infant School" building that housed the Institute at the time was destroyed in this fire. Columbia University proposed that Rensselaer leave Troy altogether and merge with its New York City campus. Ultimately, the proposal was rejected and the campus left the crowded downtown for the hillside which offered potential for expansion. Classes were temporarily held at the Vail House and in the Troy University building until 1864,[15] when the Institute moved to a building on Broadway on 8th Street, now the site of the Approach.[14]


Enrollment History:[13]
1825: 10 students
1850: 53 students
1900: 225 students
1910: 650 students[16]
1925: 1,240 students
1945: 1,604 students
1950: 3,987 students (dormitory construction on "Freshman Hill")
1965: 5,232 students
2009: 7,656 students[17]

RPI enjoyed a period of academic and resource expansion under the leadership of President Palmer Ricketts. Born in 1856 in Elkton, Maryland, Ricketts came to RPI in 1871 as a student.[18] Named President in 1901, Ricketts liberalized the curriculum by adding the Department of Arts, Science, and Business Administration, in addition to the Graduate School. He also expanded the university’s resources and developed RPI into a true polytechnic institute by increasing the number of degrees offered from two to twelve; these included electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biology, chemistry, and physics. During Rickett's tenure, enrollment increased from approximately 200 in 1900 to a high of 1700 in 1930.[13]

Another period of expansion occurred following World War II. Enrollment for the 1946 school year was so high that temporary dormitories had to be constructed. Fifty surplus metal military barracks, each housing 20 students, were arranged into a trailer-park like camp over a mile from campus nicknamed "tin town".[19] This arrangement was used by students until new freshman residence halls were opened in 1953. The new dorm complex, affectionately called "Freshman Hill", was subsequently expanded with the Commons Dining Hall in 1954, two more halls in 1958, and three more in 1968, just in time for the baby boomers. The year 1961 saw major progress in academics at the institute with the construction of the Gaerttner Linear Accelerator, then the most powerful in the world,[20] and the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center. In addition to new academic buildings, the growing student body also needed a larger Student Union, which was finished in 1967.

RPI Presidents[21]
Samuel Blatchford 1824 - 1828
John Chester 1828 - 1829
Eliphalet Nott 1829 - 1845
Nathan S.S. Beman 1845 - 1865
John F. Winslow 1865 - 1868
Thomas C. Brinsmade 1868
James Forsyth 1868 - 1886
William Gurley 1886 - 1887 (acting)
Albert E. Powers 1887 - 1888 (acting)
John H. Peck 1888 - 1901
Palmer C. Ricketts 1901 - 1934
William O. Hotchkiss 1935 - 1943
Livingston W. Houston 1944 - 1958
Richard G. Folsom 1958 - 1971
Richard J. Grosh 1971 - 1976
George M. Low 1976 - 1984
Daniel Berg 1984 - 1985 (acting)
1985 - 1987
Stanley I. Landgraf 1987 - 1988 (acting)
Roland W. Schmitt 1988 - 1993
R. Byron Pipes 1993 - 1998
Cornelius J. Barton 1998 - 1999 (acting)
Shirley Ann Jackson 1999 - present

The next three decades brought continued growth with many new buildings (see 'Campus' below). It was during these years that the university began to become proactive in helping businesses. In 1980, several researchers and graduate students who wished to start a company approached the administration and asked for a place to set up a small lab.[22] The administration provided them with a basement in an old engineering building. Two weeks later, another start-up company made a similar request. It was at this point that the "H-building", which had previously been used for storage, became the home for the RPI incubator program, the first such program sponsored solely by a university.[23] Shortly after this, RPI decided to invest $3 million in pavement, water and power on around 1,200 acres (490 ha) of land it owned 5 miles (8.0 km) south of campus.[22] Now known as the Rensselaer Technology Park, companies can rent out the land, and if they want, collaborate with RPI students and researchers. As companies began to move in, the New York State government realized how the university was helping the local economy. This is one of the reasons legislation was passed to grant RPI $30 million to build the George M. Low Center for Industrial Innovation, a center for industry-sponsored research and development.

In 1999, RPI gained attention when it was one of the first universities to implement a mandatory laptop program. Many saw the program as unnecessary, costly, and rushed into practice too quickly by the administration.[24] However, the program has persisted, and remains an integral part of life at RPI, with many courses requiring that a student bring their laptop to class. 1999 also saw the arrival of President Shirley Ann Jackson. A graduate of MIT, Jackson had held physics research positions at Bell Laboratories and Rutgers University, and had most recently served as chairperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She instituted the "The Rensselaer Plan" (discussed below), an ambitious plan to revitalize the institute. Many advances have been made under the plan, and Jackson has enjoyed the ongoing support of the RPI Board of Trustees. However, her leadership style did not sit well with many faculty; on April 26, 2006, RPI faculty voted 149 to 155 in a failed vote of no-confidence in Jackson.[25] In August 2007, Jackson's administration disbanded the faculty senate and called for a full review of faculty governance, prompting a strong reaction from the Rensselaer community, including faculty petitions against the measure and a faculty hosted "teach in".[26][27]

On October 4, 2008, RPI celebrated the grand opening of the $220 million Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. About two months later, President Jackson announced via email that there would be Institute-wide layoffs due to "the global and national economic crisis, and its impact on endowments."[28] On December 16, 2008, RPI eliminated 98 positions across the Institute, about five percent of its workforce.[29]

Having nearly two centuries of history and a high tech future in store, the Princeton Review remarks, “Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is simultaneously the oldest technological school in the country and the most modern school of technology in the U.S. It’s like George Jetson meets Archimedes.”[30]


  • 1824 - The institute is founded and eventually becomes the first continually existing technological university in the English-speaking world.[4]
  • 1835 - The institute awarded the first civil engineering degree in the United States.[31][32]
  • 1864 - The Alpha (first national) chapter of Theta Xi fraternity opens at RPI.[33]
  • 1898 - The first association of Latin American students in the United States was formed at RPI, called the Union Hispano-Americana.[34] This organization would later merge with other like-minded organizations and form the first Latin American fraternity in the United States, Phi Iota Alpha, in 1931.[35]
  • 1909 - Alumni of Pittsburgh provide funds for the Pittsburgh Building. This was the first time in American history that the alumni of a single city raised enough money to build a building on a college campus.[36]
  • 1961- The institute awarded the first accredited environmental engineering degree in the United States.[37]
  • 1980 - The institute founds the first business incubator wholly sponsored and operated by a university.[23]
  • 2007 - The institute is possibly the first university to start an undergraduate major in Video Game Design.[38][39]


RPI's 275-acre (111 ha)[40] landscaped campus sits upon a hill overlooking historic Troy, New York and the Hudson River. The surrounding area is mostly residential neighborhoods, with the city of Troy lying at the base of the hill. The campus is bisected by 15th Street, with most of the athletic and housing facilities to the east, and the academic buildings to the west. An iconic footbridge spans the street, linking the two halves. Much of the campus features a series of Colonial Revival style structures built in the first three decades of the 20th century. Overall, the campus has enjoyed four periods of expansion:[10]

Climbing the Hill, 1824–1905

As discussed in the history section, the school was originally located in downtown Troy but gradually moved to the hilltop that overlooks the city. Very few buildings from this time period remain.[10] The only building from this time period still located on the RPI campus is the Winslow Chemical Laboratory, a building on the National Register of Historic Places. Located at the base of the hill on the western edge of campus, it is currently the home of the Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory.[41]

Ricketts Campus, 1906–1935

Russell Sage Laboratory

President Palmer Ricketts supervised the construction of the school's "Green Rooftop" Colonial Revival buildings that give much of the campus a distinct architectural style. Buildings constructed during this period include the Carnegie Building (1906), Walker Laboratory (1907), Russell Sage Laboratory (1909), Pittsburgh Building (1912), Quadrangle Dormitories (1916–1927), Troy Building (1925), Amos Eaton Hall (1928), Greene Building (1931) and Ricketts Building (1935). Also built during this period was "The Approach" (1907), a massive ornate granite staircase found on the west end of campus. Originally linking RPI to the Troy Union Railroad station, it again serves as an important link between the city and the university.[42]

Post-War Expansion, 1946–1960

The Voorhees Computing Center

After World War II, the campus again underwent major expansion. Nine dormitories were built at the east edge of campus bordering Burdett Avenue, a location which came to be called "Freshman Hill." The Houston Field House (1949) was reassembled, after being moved in pieces from its original Rhode Island location. West Hall, which was originally built in 1869 as a hospital, was acquired by the Institute in 1953. The ornate building is an example of French Second Empire architecture.[43] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Another unique building is the Voorhees Computing Center (VCC). Originally built as St. Joseph’s Seminary chapel in 1933,it was once the institute's library, until the completion of the Folsom Library in 1976.[44] Interestingly, the new library, built adjacent to the computing center, was designed to match colors with the church, but is very dissimilar architecturally; it is an excellent example of the modern brutalist style – a style that has invited comparisons with a parking garage. The university was unsure of what to do with the church, or whether to keep it at all, but in 1979 the institute decided to preserve it and renovate it into a unique place for computer labs and facilities to support the institute's computing initiatives.

Modern Campus, 1961–present

The modern campus features the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center (J-ROWL) (1961), Materials Research Center (MRC) (1965), Rensselaer Union (1967), Cogswell Laboratory (1971), Darrin Communications Center (DCC) (1973), Jonsson Engineering Center (JEC) (1977), Low Center for Industrial Innovation (CII) (1987), a public school building which was converted into Academy Hall (1990), and the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (2004).[10] Although rarely used by students, tunnels connect the Low Center, DCC, JEC, and Science Center. A tenth dormitory named Barton Hall was added to Freshman Hill in August 2000, featuring the largest rooms available for freshmen.[45]

On October 4, 2008, the university celebrated the grand opening of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) situated on the west edge of campus.[46] The building was constructed on the precipice of the hill, with the main entrance on top. Upon entering, elevated walkways lead into a 1,200 seat concert hall. Most of the building is encased in a glass exoskeleton, with an atrium-like space between it and the "inner building". Adjacent to and underneath the main auditorium there is a 400 seat theater, offices, and three studios with 40-foot (12 m) to 60-foot (18 m) ceilings.[47]

In October 2007, tentative plans were announced by President Jackson for a major addition to the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center, which would add 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) to 120,000 square feet (11,000 m2) of lab space.[48] Design mock-ups showed a new adjacent building built next to the Science Center, with a glass-enclosed atrium spanning the space between the old building and the new.[49][48] The plans were further elaborated on by Jackson at the 2008 Town Meeting.[50] It was announced that under the plan the Hirsch Observatory would be renovated as well.[51] Vice President Claude Rounds said the budget had not been worked out in full but the project should cost somewhere between $70 to $75 million.[51] Since 2008, no further official announcements on the project have been made and the status of the project is unknown.

In 2008 RPI announced the purchase of the former Rensselaer Best Western Inn, located at the base of the hill, along with plans to transform it into a new residence hall. After extensive renovations, the residence hall was dedicated on May 15, 2009 as the Howard N. Blitman, P.E. ’50 Residence Commons.[52] It houses about 300 students in 148 rooms and includes a fitness center, dining hall, and conference area.[52] The new residence hall is part of a growing initiative to involve students in the Troy community and help revitalize the downtown. RPI owns and operates three office buildings in downtown Troy, the Rice and Heley buildings and the historic W. & L.E. Gurley Building.[53] RPI also owns the Proctor's Theater building in Troy which was purchased in 2004, with the intention of converting it into office space.[54] Due to the historic nature of the building, there was resistance by the Troy community and RPI has not done any redevelopment. Advocates are hoping to restore the building back to its original use.[55][56][57]

Other Campuses

The Institute runs a 15-acre (6.1 ha) campus in Hartford, Connecticut and a distance learning center in Groton, Connecticut. These centers are used by graduates and working professionals and are managed by the Hartford branch of RPI, Rensselaer at Hartford. At Hartford, graduate degrees are offered in Business Administration, Management, Computer Science, Computer and Systems Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Information Technology. There are also a number of certificate programs and skills training programs for working professionals.

RPI also has a location in Malta, New York for graduates of the Navy Nuclear Power Training School (NNPTS) who work at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory's (KAPL) Kesselring Site Operation in nearby West Milton. Faculty from the Troy campus provide the teaching. Students enter with one year's worth of coursework and in two to three years graduate with a BS in Nuclear Engineering, Engineering Physics, or Engineering Science.[58]


Academy Hall

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has five schools: the School of Architecture, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the Lally School of Management & Technology, and the School of Science. The School of Engineering is the largest by enrollment, followed by the School of Science, the School of Management, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and the School of Architecture. There also exists an interdisciplinary program in Information Technology that began in the late 1990s, programs in prehealth and prelaw, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) for students desiring commissions as officers in the armed forces, a program in Cooperative Education (Co-Op), and domestic and international exchange programs. All together, the university offers around 140 degree programs in nearly 60 fields that lead to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. In addition to traditional majors, RPI has around a dozen special interdisciplinary programs, such as Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Design, Innovation, and Society (DIS), Minds & Machines, and Product Design and Innovation (PDI).[59] RPI is a technology-oriented university; all buildings and residence hall rooms have hard-wired high speed internet access, most of the campus buildings have wireless, and all incoming freshmen have been required to purchase a laptop computer since 1999. In 2004, Forbes ranked RPI #1 for having the "most connected campus."[60] Nationally, RPI is a member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the NAICU's University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN).

Rensselaer Plan

View of RPI from downtown Troy

With the arrival of the current president, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, came the "Rensselaer Plan" announced in 1999. Its goal is to achieve greater prominence for RPI as a technological research university.[61] Various aspects of the plan include bringing in a larger graduate student population and new research faculty, and increasing participation in undergraduate research, international exchange programs, and "living and learning communities." Financially speaking, the plan uses half its money for research, a quarter for scholarships, and a quarter for campus platforms, such as athletic facilities.[62] So far, there have been a number of changes under the plan: new infrastructure such as the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) was built to support new programs, and application numbers have increased.[63] In fact, in the three years between 2005 and 2008 application numbers doubled from 5,500 to 11,000.[64] According to Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University “Change at Rensselaer in the last five years has occurred with a scope and swiftness that may be without precedent in the recent history of American higher education.”[65] Although the number of doctoral students has increased,[63] the plan has not increased the overall number of graduate students. The number of graduates on the Troy campus has dropped from a high of 2617 in 1999 to 1228 in 2007, a decrease of more than 50%.[66][67][68] These pages show a decrease from 1839 in 1999 to 1228 in 2007, a decrease of 36% (Hartford students were not included in the 1999 figure).</ref>

The ability to attract greater research funds is needed to meet the goals of the plan, and the university has set a goal of $100 million annually. As of 2006, research expenditures have reached $90 million per annum. The university recognizes the relatively small size of its endowment compared to its competition (cf. Case Western Reserve U., University of Rochester, etc.). To help raise money the university mounted a $1 billion capital campaign, of which the public phase began in September 2004 and was expected to finish by 2008. In 2001, a major milestone of the campaign was the pledging of an unrestricted gift of $360 million by an anonymous donor, believed to be the largest such gift to a U.S. university at the time. The university had been a relative stranger to such generosity as the prior largest single gift was $15 million.[69] By September 2006, the $1 billion goal has been exceeded much in part to an in-kind contribution of software commercially-valued at $513.95 million by the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE). In light of this, the board of trustees announced a new goal of $1.4 billion by June 30, 2009. The new goal was met by October 1, 2008.[70]


The number of faculty has been steadily growing since the implementation of the Rensselaer Plan in 1999.[63] Among them are members of the National Academies, a Nobel laureate, and 40 NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award winners.[71] As of 2006 there are 400 full time and 81 part time faculty, yielding a student faculty ratio of 14:1.[72] Well-known faculty include:

Troy Building, which houses the president's office


RPI ranks among the top 50 national universities in the United States according to US News & World Report. [6] The same source ranks RPI 24th for "Best Value" in undergraduate education.[74] In 2005, the School of Engineering was ranked 16th in the nation for undergraduates, and 34th in the nation for graduates.[75] Four of the graduate engineering programs are ranked in the top 20 (electrical engineering, materials science and engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering), seven of 11 are ranked in the top 25, and all are ranked in the top 40 in the nation.[76] In 2006 U.S. News put the graduate applied mathematics program at 20th.[77]

The Newsweek/Kaplan 2007 Educational College Guide named Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute one of the 25 "New Ivies", a group of 25 schools described as providing an education equivalent to schools in the Ivy League.[78]

The Lally School of Management and Technology’s entrepreneurship programs ranked 21st in the nation, and its technological entrepreneurship program was ranked sixth by Entrepreneur Magazine.[77] The Lally School's corporate strategy program was ranked eleventh in the nation by BusinessWeek magazine.[79]

The Electronic Arts program is one of the highest ranked departments at RPI. For four years in a row U.S. News ranked the iEAR program 8th in the nation: 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.[77] The Master of Fine Arts in multimedia/visual communications program was ranked 6th in 2008 and 2009 by U.S. News.[80]

In 2008 a new ranking called America's Best Colleges released by placed RPI at 49,[81] and then at 42 a year later in 2009.[82] In 2009 and reported that among US colleges, RPI had the 9th highest average starting salary and 13th highest average mid-career salary for graduates, based on actual earnings information.[83] The 2008 THES - QS World University Rankings ranks RPI at 174 among the top 200 universities worldwide for overall academics,[84] and number 50 among the top 50 universities for technology.[7] The Global University Ranking, which utilizes a combination of major international ranking systems, ranked RPI in the range 74-77 in 2009.[85]

Research and development

RPI has established six areas of research as institute priorities: biotechnology, energy and the environment, nanotechnology, computation and information technology, and media and the arts.[86] Advances in these fields have the potential to effect dramatic transformations in 21st century society.

RPI is home to the United States' first on-campus business incubator,[23] which has helped start over 180 companies in its lifetime, with a survival rate of about 80%.[87] One of the largest companies to have originated in the incubator is MapInfo, a major publisher of mapping and geographic information systems software. Others incubator success stories include Vicarious Visions, a well known maker of video games, and CORESense, Inc., a leading provider of multi-channel retail software. RPI operates the Rensselaer Technology Park, which is home to over 50 technologically oriented companies. The 1,250-acre (510 ha) park is about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of the campus along the Hudson River.[88] Park tenants collaborate with faculty and students on research projects and hire students for internships, co-ops, and employment.

Some notable research centers operated by RPI are the Terahertz Research Center, Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis, Darrin Fresh Water Institute, Center for Automation Technologies and Systems, and the Lighting Research Center.[89] The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting, offering the world's only M.S. degree in lighting. Since 1988 it has built an international reputation as a reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. The LRC provides training programs for government agencies, utilities, contractors, lighting designers, and other lighting professionals.

RPI conducts nuclear research at the 60MeV Gaerttner Linear Accelerator (LINAC) Laboratory. The LINAC is used primarily for the testing of materials, but there is also ongoing research in neutron generation and other technologies. The lab made the news with discoveries regarding bubble fusion[90] and portable pyroelectric fusion devices.[91] Other important research facilities include the geotechnical centrifuge, used for civil engineering simulations, and RPI's array of six subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnels.[92]

In May 2006, RPI announced a partnership with IBM and New York State to create the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, a supercomputing center to be used for nanotechnology research. As of June 2008, the $100 million center is North America's most powerful university-based supercomputing center and the 22nd most powerful supercomputing center of any kind in the world.[93]


RPI's "Quad" dormitory on the central campus

In the 2008–2009 academic year, RPI's enrollment included 5,534 resident undergraduate, 1,055 resident graduate, 722 graduate students on the Hartford campus and 71 distance learning graduate students.[72] The institute attracts students from every state and 92 foreign countries.[94] Among class of 2013, 61% were in the top 10% of their high school class.[72] The average high school GPA of the class of 2013 was of A-/B+ and the average SAT score was 1360.[72] The acceptance rate dropped between 2005-09 and in 2008 was 44.1%.[95] The yield rate (percentage of admitted students who attend) was 27.3% in 2008.[96]

Around 17% of students received the RPI medal/scholarship in high school, which is a merit scholarship of $15,000 a year.[97][72]Altogether about 90% of students receive either need-based or merit-based financial aid.[98]

Gender ratio

Since becoming coeducational in 1942, RPI has struggled to attract a gender-balanced applicant pool. In 1966 the male-to-female ratio was 19:1, in the 1980s it reached as high as 8:1, and in the early 1990s the ratio was around 5:1. As of 2009 RPI has a ratio of 2.5:1 (72% male / 28% female),[99] which is among the highest of major American universities.[100] Both the class of 2011 and the class of 2012 have a ratio of about 2.3:1, or about 30% female.[95]

As is common among universities, the female-to-male ratio does vary between schools and individual majors. One of the stated goals of the Rensselaer Plan is to "reflect the diversity of the global community" in the student body, which includes encouraging more women to enroll.[101]


The Puckman Mascot

The school features a competitive Division I ice hockey team, the Engineers, who won NCAA national titles in 1954 and 1985. The official nickname of some of the school's Division III teams was changed in 1995 from the Engineers to the Red Hawks. However the hockey, football, cross-country, tennis, and track and field teams all chose to retain the Engineers name. The Red Hawks name was, at the time, very unpopular among the student body; a Red Hawk mascot was frequently taunted with thrown concessions and chants of "kill the chicken!" In contrast, the official hockey mascot known as The Puckman has always been very popular. The Puckman is an anthropomorphic hockey puck with an engineer's helmet.

During the 1970's and 80's, one of RPI cheers was:

Secant, tangent, cosine, sine
Square root, cube root, log of pi
Disintegrate them, RPI![102][103]

Depending on how the rules are interpreted, the RPI hockey team may have the longest winning streak on record for a Division I team; in the 1984-85 season it went undefeated for 30 games, but one game was against the University of Toronto, a Canadian team. Continuing into the 1985-86 season, RPI continued undefeated over 38 games, including two wins over Toronto.[104] Adam Oates and Daren Puppa, two players during that time, both went on to become stars in the NHL. Joe Juneau, who played from 1987 to 1991, also spent many years in the NHL. Graeme Townshend who also played in the late 1980s, had a brief NHL career. He is the first person of Jamaican ancestry to play in the National Hockey League.

The hockey team plays a significant role in the campus's culture, drawing thousands of fans each week to the Houston Field House during the season. The team's popularity even sparked the tradition of the hockey line, where students lined up for season tickets months in advance of the on-sale date. Today, the line generally begins a week or more before ticket sales.[105] Another tradition since 1978 has been the "Big Red Freakout!" game held close to the first weekend of February. Fans usually dress in the schools colors Red and White, and gifts such as tee-shirts are distributed en masse. In hockey the school's biggest rival has always been the upstate engineering school Clarkson University.

The lacrosse team won the national championship in 1952.[106] The lacrosse team also represented the United States in the 1948 Olympics in London. Ned Harkness coached the lacrosse and ice hockey teams, winning national championships in both sports.

The Red Hawk baseball squad is perennially atop the Liberty League standings, winning the league title in 2008 with the help of Liberty League Pitcher of the year Joe Zongol. The team is coached by ex-New York Yankee Karl Steffen (Ithaca '78) with Steve "Smoke" Allard (Massachusetts '87) as Associate Head Coach. The Red Hawks play their home games at Robison Field.

Since 1903 RPI and nearby Union College have been rivals in football, making it the oldest such rivalry in the state. The teams play for the Dutchman's Shoes. The 2008 Engineers look to compete for a National Championship. As defending Liberty League Champions they have the target on their back but look to return to the NCAA playoffs. RPI Football had their most successful season in 2003, where they finished 11-2 and lost to St. Johns (Minn.) in the NCAA Division III semi final game.[107]

East Campus Athletic Village, under construction

As part of the Rensselaer Plan, the institute has undertaken a major project to improve its athletic facilities with the East Campus Athletic Village. The plan outlines construction of a new and much larger 4,842 seat football stadium, a basketball arena with seating for 1,200, a new 50-meter pool, an indoor track and field complex, new tennis courts, new weight rooms and a new sports medicine center.[108] The institute broke ground on August 26, 2007 and construction of the first phase is expected to last two years.[109] The estimated cost of the project is $78 million for phase one and $35–$45 million for phase two.[110] With the completion of the new stadium, the bleachers on the Class of '86 football field on the central campus will be removed and the field will become an open space. In the future the new space could be used for expansions of the academic buildings, but for now members of the campus planning team foresee a "historic landscape with different paths and access ways for students and vehicles alike".[111]

Student life

Student Union

The students of RPI have created and participate in a variety of student-run clubs and organizations funded by the Student Union. The Union is unusual in that it is entirely student-run and its operations are paid for by activity fees. About 170 of these organizations are funded by the Student Union, while another thirty, which consist mostly of political and religious organizations, are self-supporting.[112] In 2006 the Princeton Review ranked RPI second for "more to do on campus."[113]

Phalanx is RPI's Senior Honor Society.[114] It was founded in 1912, when Edward Dion and the Student Council organized a society to recognize those RPI students who have distinguished themselves among their peers in the areas of leadership, service, and devotion to the alma mater. It is a fellowship of the most active in student activities and has inducted over 1300 members since its founding.[115]

Greek organizations are popular with about 30 social fraternities and 5 sororities. There are two coed fraternities, Psi Upsilon, a social fraternity, while the other, Alpha Phi Omega, is a service fraternity. As such, about a third of men are in fraternities and about a fifth of women are in sororities. See the List of RPI fraternities and sororities.

RPI has around twenty intramural sports organizations, many of which are broken down into different divisions based on level of play. Greek organizations compete in them as well as independents. There are also thirty-nine club sports. Given the university's proximity to the Berkshires, Green Mountains, and Adirondacks, the ski club is one of the largest groups on campus with weekly trips to local ski areas during the winter months.[116]

The Rensselaer Polytechnic is the student-run weekly school newspaper.[117] The Poly prints about 7000 copies each week, and distributes them around campus. Although it is the Union club with the largest budget, The Poly receives no subsidy from the Union, and obtains all funding through the sale of ads. There is also a popular student-run magazine called Statler & Waldorf.[118] Another popular source of news is the student-run

RPI has an improvisational comedy group, Sheer Idiocy, which performs several shows a semester,[119] as well as a sketch comedy troupe, Experimental Error. There are also several music groups ranging from a cappella groups such as the Rensselyrics, the Rusty Pipes, Partial Credit and Duly Noted,[120] to several instrumental groups such as the Orchestra, the Jazz Band, and a classical choral group, the Rensselaer Concert Choir.

Another notable organization on campus is WRPI, the campus radio station. WRPI differs from most college radio in that it serves a 75-mile (121 km) radius including the greater Albany area. With 10 kW of broadcasting power, WRPI maintains a stronger signal than nearly all college radio stations and some commercial stations. WRPI currently broadcasts on 91.5 FM in the Albany area.

The RPI Playhouse

The RPI Players is an on-campus theater group that was formed in 1929. The Players resided in the Old Gym until 1965 when they moved to their present location at the 15th Street Lounge. This distinctive red shingled building had been a USO hall for the US Army before being purchased by RPI. The Players have staged over 260 productions in its history.[121]

RPI songs

There are a number of songs commonly played and sung at various RPI events.[122][123] Notable among them are:

  • The Alma Mater (Here's to Old RPI) - sung at formal events such as commencement and convocation, also played and sung by the Pep Band at hockey and football games. It was published in the first book of Songs of Rensselaer printed in 1913.
  • Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer - used to be the fight song during the 1960s. It is still played today by the Pep Band at athletic events.
  • All We've Learned at Rensselaer - sung at the RPI commencement ceremonies by the Rensselyrics. Although the Rensselyrics are an a cappella group, this song is accompanied by piano. Each verse or section has a different musical style, several of which are closely based on Billy Joel songs or other popular songs.

First-Year Experience

Another notable aspect of student life at RPI is the "First-Year Experience", or FYE program. Freshman begin their stay at RPI with a week called "Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond" or NRB week. The Office of the First-Year Experience provides several programs that extend to not only freshman, but to all students. These include family weekend, community service days, the Information and Personal Assistance Center (IPAC), and the Community Advocate Program.[124] Recently the FYE program was awarded the 2006 NASPA Excellence Gold Award, in the category of "Enrollment Management, Orientation, Parents, First-Year, Other-Year and related."[125]

Notable alumni

Several notable 19th century civil engineers graduated from RPI. These include the visionary of the transcontinental railroad, Theodore Judah, Brooklyn Bridge engineer Washington Roebling, George W. G. Ferris (who designed and built the original Ferris Wheel) and Leffert L. Buck, the chief engineer of the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.[126]

Many RPI graduates have gone on to change the world with their inventions. Famous among these inventors are Allen B. Dumont ('24),[127] creator of the first commercial television; Keith D. Millis ('38),[128] inventor of ductile iron; Ted Hoff ('58),[129] father of the microprocessor; Raymond Tomlinson ('63),[130] often credited with the invention of e-mail; and Curtis Priem ('82), designer of the first video graphics processor and co-founder of NVIDIA.

In addition to NVIDIA, RPI graduates have also gone on to found or co-found major companies such as John Wiley and Sons, Texas Instruments, Fairchild Semiconductor, PSINet, MapInfo, Adelphia Communications, Level 3 Communications, Garmin, and Bugle Boy. Several RPI graduates have played a part in the US space program; graduate George Low was manager of NASA for the Apollo 11 project and served as president of RPI. Alumni astronauts include John L. Swigert Jr., Richard Mastracchio, Gregory R. Wiseman, and space tourist Dennis Tito. There are also several political figures from RPI, including federal judge Arthur J. Gajarsa, director of DARPA Tony Tether, MA-1 representative John Olver and Senators Mark Shepard (VT) and George R. Dennis (MD). Notable hockey players include Stanley Cup winner and former NHL All Star Mike McPhee (1982), two-time Calder Cup winner Neil Little (1994), former NHL All Rookie Joé Juneau (1991), and former NHL All Stars Adam Oates (1985) and Daren Puppa (1985).

Other notable alumni include physics Nobel Prize winner Ivar Giaever (1964);[131] director of Linux International Jon Hall (1977); president of the NCAA Myles Brand (1964);[132] adult stem cell pioneer James Fallon; and director Bobby Farrelly. The RPI Alumni Hall of Fame was created in 1995 by the Rensselaer Alumni Association to honor outstanding alumni.[126]


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Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 42°43′48″N 73°40′39″W / 42.7300°N 73.6775°W / 42.7300; -73.6775

Simple English

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
[[File:|The Troy Building|200px]]
Motto Knowledge and Thoroughness
Established 1824
Type Private
Endowment US $793 million[1]
President Shirley Ann Jackson
Provost Robert Palazzo [2]
Undergraduates 5,394 [3]
Postgraduates 2,127
Place Troy, New York, USA
Campus Urban, 275 acre
Mascot The Red Hawk and Puckman

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI is a private university in Troy, NY. It was made in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer because he wanted there to be schools that taught science and engineering. It is the oldest engineering school in America. Lots of students from RPI get jobs that pay a lot of money after they leave RPI. Some people who went to RPI have started big companies like NVIDIA, John Wiley and Sons, and Texas Instruments. George Low, an American who helped get spaceships into space, went to RPI.

What RPI focuses on has changed a lot since it was first made. There still is a lot of engineering at the school, but now there is growing arts and social studies teaching at the school. A big concert hall called EMPAC was opened in 2008 at RPI. RPI has a Division I ice hockey team.


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Coordinates: 42°43′48″N 73°40′39″W / 42.7300°N 73.6775°W / 42.7300; -73.6775

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