Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
College review by Lisa Bleich
Rensselaer is trying to move away from its former acronym RPI to put more emphasis on programs outside of engineering. Approximately 60% of the 5,500 students major in engineering, with the other popular programs in Architecture, Management, Information Technology, and Electronic Arts.
Rensselaer is a pretty brick campus, in fact much prettier than I remembered from my visit four years ago. They recently completed the new athletic field and field house, which is a boon for athletes because each sport has its own dedicated locker room. The new football field and basketball court are also impressive. Rensselaer is DIII for all sports except for Hockey with is DI and very strong. 30% of students participate in varsity sports and 70% in intramural and club sports.
Rensselaer pushes creativity and innovation in the classroom and fosters teamwork and collaboration across disciplines. There are numerous learning labs where students learn in the classroom and directly apply their learning to a specific application. Most of these classrooms are sponsored by a corporation such as GE, IBM, Hewlitt Packard, etc. This provides a great opportunity for students to get real world experience in the classroom and the companies to preview students abilities. As a result, Rensselaer graduates are very successful getting hired upon graduation. Students also have a lot opportunity to conduct research from as early as freshman year.
Students were nerdy, but extremely articulate and had a genuine love of science, technology, and innovation. While the ratio of males to females is 70 to 30, the guys from the student panel jokingly said that it is never a problem because half of the guys are holed up in their room playing video games and that evens out the ratio when it comes to dating. Architecture and Electronic Arts have the most girls and bioengineering is evenly split.
30% of the student body participates in Greek life. Interestingly the students form communities around their activities. The most popular clubs are the Outdoor Club and the RPI Players. Many mechanical engineers get great experience building sets for the active theater troupes. There is also a great music scene on campus and students express their creativity through the arts. Famous alums include the creator of Guitar Hero. Rensselaer is located in Troy, NY, which is another formerly strong manufacturing town. It is about 15-20 minutes away from Albany, the state’s capital.
I was impressed by the poise and confidence of our tour guide. She made an interesting comment that seems to sum up Rensselaer: “Rensselaer never takes the initiative for a student. All the opportunities are available for the asking, but it is up to the student to seek them out.”
That motto sums up the school, students who want to innovate, solve problems, and make changes to the world in a technology related field, will have a fabulous, collaborative environment to do so.