Student and Campus Experience

Student and Campus Experience

The Rensselaer Plan Aim: Provide a student and campus experience akin to that of top-tier universities.


Offers a comprehensive array of programs and initiatives designed to help students and families navigate Rensselaer.


First Year Experience

  • Created Office of the First-Year Experience.
  • Hired first dean of the First-Year Experience.
  • Implemented new freshman orientation program, including wilderness, environmental, cultural, and community service options.
  • Received 8 national and 4 regional awards from the National Orientation Directors Association for publications, media, and theme in addition to having work featured in two national design publications.
  • Developed a complete set of academic, social, and psychological support mechanisms for first-year students — undergraduate and graduate.
  • Developed new orientation program for new graduate TA’s.
  • Developed orientation program for new faculty and staff hires.
  • Expanded student/young alumni programs to address “first year” as alums.
  • Implemented online Electronic Warning System for first-year students.
  • Created and implemented the Leadership Theme house, living and learning community
  • Created Design and Arts Theme house, living and learning community
  • Provided team-building activities for all first-year students during student orientation.
  • Received Gold Award of Excellence from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators as best practice in the Nation for First-Year Experience Program


Students are assisted in crafting a holistic, personal experience spanning their tenure at Rensselaer.


Academic and Personal Success

  • We have been recognized and ranked as a top university. In 2016 U.S. News & World Report ranked Rensselaer at 39th among national research universities, the highest rank of the Institute in the last 11 years. Rensselaer has been ranked as one of the top 50 national universities by U.S. News & World Report for the past 16 years. We were also ranked 6th by USA Today for best U.S. colleges to major in Physics; 8th by CNBC for the 17 U.S. colleges whose students go on to earn the most money; and 12th by Forbes for Most Entrepreneurial University. Our Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program is 8th on the Animation Career Review list of top game design programs in the United States, and our School of Architecture has been ranked the 14th best undergraduate program in the nation by the journal Design Intelligence.
  • Improved graduation rate from 73% in 1999 to 81% in 2016.
  • Improved advising system, including expanding Electronic Warning System to include upper-class students.
  • Established class deans for each class beginning with the Class of 2007.
  • Launched Sophomore Year Experience initiative.
  • Launched Junior Year Experience initiative.
  • Launched Culminating Year Experience initiative.
  • Expanded counseling center outreach.
  • Launched graduate student experience initiatives, including individual review of all student progress.
  • Launched annual Opening Doors faculty outreach to first-year students in residence halls.
  • 2007 National award for innovative programming from the National Association of Colleges and Employers for the Career Development Center Sophomore Career Experience.
  • Launched Annual Student Leadership Conference with corporate partners.
  • Delivered customized leadership training workshops to the campus community.
  • Launched LEAP (Leadership Educators Advising Peers) program.
  • Hired vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.


Participation in athletics helps student-athletes to excel both athletically and academically, while building leadership and teamwork capabilities.



  • Hired new Athletics Director.
  • Focused on academic as well as team success:
    • Student-athlete GPA averages exceed those of the student body as a whole.
  • Elevated Women’s Ice Hockey to Division I (inaugural season 2005-06).
  • Hired new men’s ice hockey coach (2006).
  • Opened new fitness center (Mueller Center).
  • Installed new roof, skylight, and pool filtration system for Robison Pool.
  • Installed new roof, locker room, and dasher improvements at Houston Field House.
  • Completed locker room improvements in the AS&RC.
  • Built new bleachers and press facilities for ’86 Field (football).
  • Installed new surface on Harkness Field and Track.
  • Developed Master Plan; designed Phase I for East Campus Athletic Village.
  • Broke ground on East Campus Athletic Village (August 2007); opened facility on October 3, 2009.
  • Constructed new lighted turf field for soccer and lacrosse (Renwyck Field).
  • Constructed improvements to locker rooms, equipment room and athletic training facility at Houston Field House.
  • Installed new lights on Harkness Field (August 2007).
  • Achieved LEED gold status certification for East Campus Athletic Village (Fall 2009).


Provides students with a variety of outlets to stretch themselves creatively, physically, and intellectually through programs in the arts, sports and recreation, culture, and science and technology.


Student Life and Services

  • We have more students on our campus than ever before, with the largest incoming freshman class in FY ’17 of 1,698. Undergraduate applications have grown by over 300 percent in ten years, from just over 5,500 applications in the fall of 2006 to just over 18,500 applications this past fall.
  • Opened new residence hall (Barton Hall).
  • Renovated Student Union building.
  • Renovated Bray, Cary, Hall, Crockett, Nason, and Warren residence halls.
  • Completed landscape and site improvements to Commons residence halls.
  • Constructed new entrance to Commons Dining Hall. Installed new elevator and new restrooms and renovated mail room.
  • Constructed (through privatization) new Sixth Avenue Howard N. Blitman P.E. '50 Residence Commons (opened Fall 2009).
  • Implemented Campus Transportation Service and Shuttle Bus Service.
  • Initiated rolling renovations of all upperclass undergraduate residence halls.
  • Created new graduate housing projects on Peoples Avenue.
  • Created Student Life Services Center, through renovation of Academy Hall.
  • Created new hospitality venues at Jazzman’s Café, Moe’s Southwestern Grill (formerly Java++ Coffee House), new Library Café, Rensselaer Union Rathskellar, Father’s Marketplace renovation and BARH Dining Room.
  • Completed renovations to Russell Sage Dining Hall, doubling its size.
  • Increased quality of online customer services, including registration anywhere in the world, financial aid renewal, veteran’s benefits processes, class lists with individual student pictures, and degree audit, online transcript order process, implemented grade modifiers.
  • Improved quality of student health insurance program while reducing the annual cost of per student.
  • Created new pipeline summer programs to attract talented women and underrepresented ethnic groups.
  • Improved customer service in Rensselaer Union Bookstore with implementation of Bookstore Pre-Pack program.
  • Implemented annual Classical Concert Series.
  • Increased number of student clubs from 125 to over 200.
  • Delivered teambuilding, goal setting, public speaking, and leadership development to students in pipeline programs.
  • Developed new administrative processes for graduating students including a seamless on-stage diploma distribution process, on-line degree status, and early alert review.
  • Developed student and course enrollment data marts in Data Warehouse.
  • Created pilot living/learning community focused on the earth and its environment (the Vasudha Living & Learning Community at Rensselaer).
  • Created leadership themed-living area for first-year students.
  • Increased student staffing in upperclass student apartment areas.
  • Improved residential environment by designating all residence halls and apartments entirely smoke free as of May 20, 2007.
  • Developed Opening Doors program with teams of faculty and staff visiting students in residence halls to discuss adjustment issues, satisfaction levels and general experience at Rensselaer.
  • Initiated CLASS initiative (Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students), with residential clusters and live-in Cluster Deans, and with Class Deans (beginning Fall 2009).
  • Through CLASS, we have transformed the student experience and have a 94 percent average freshman retention rate (2016).
  • Established new positions for class deans and residential cluster deans.
  • Established position of Assistant Dean for Off-Campus Students.
  • Launched tobacco-free campus initiative July 1, 2010.
  • In partnership with Follett, launched a new College Store (2015).


To develop the facilities and infrastructure required to further the achievement of Institute goals.


Renewal of Academic Facilities

  • Completed renovation of main floor of Folsom Library.
  • Installed new academic Wind Tunnel Facility in Jonsson Engineering Center.
  • Upgraded classrooms.
  • Created new laboratory for undergraduate life sciences requirement.
  • Upgraded all engineering undergraduate laboratories.
  • Upgrading all science undergraduate laboratories.


Rensselaer is committed to an undergraduate education that produces graduates known for their intellectual agility, multicultural sophistication, and global view.


The Undergraduate Plan

Initiated in Fall 2005, and focused on the following elements:

  • Undergraduate participation in research.
  • Living and learning communities (honors college, biotechnology, media and the arts, earth and the environment).
  • A more diverse student body.
  • Experimental learning and growth.
  • Athletics as an opportunity to develop fitness for leadership, community, and visibility.
  • Curricula, courses, experiences, and mentoring that prepare students to “change the world.”
  • Leadership/professional development courses (all engineering and management students).
  • Robust fitness opportunities (Rensselaer Union’s Mueller Center program).
  • CLASS (Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students) initiative.
  • Created Design and Arts housing.


Provides graduate students with the administrative, academic, and curricular guidance they need to progress through their courses and programs.


Office of Graduate Education

  • Created Office of Graduate Education (OGE), and position of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education.
  • Developed a comprehensive integrated performance plan focused on growth in the number, quality, and diversity of the student body.
  • Increased number of Ph.D. students from 740 (Fall, 2002) to 1,109 (Fall, 2015).
  • Created new doctoral degrees in Biochemistry/Biophysics, Electronic Arts, and Architecture (Built Ecologies).
  • Established Institute-wide Graduate Planning Committee with the Vice Provost as Chair.
  • Delivered a Professional Leadership Series (non-credit course for graduate students) covering topics such as ethical decision-making, personality differences, communication styles and leadership styles
  • Delivered training on interactive teaching methods, diversity and culture for new Teaching Assistants.