Priorities:Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Strategic Priorities

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The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Landscape Canvas at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is relatively well-established but is severely lacking in student involvement, stemming from lack of exposure to the resources available on campus and an unclear "access point" for students to begin their involvement in the I&E Ecosystem at Rensselaer. 

Yet, Rensselaer clearly values entrepreneurship, as indicated by an excerpt of The Rensselaer Plan found below. It is imperative that Rensselaer students learn about opportunities to get involved in entrepreneurial persuits early on in their college career in order for Rensselaer to effectively achieve the goals stated in the Rensselaer Plan. 

6.1 Entrepreneurship Education and Research

Entrepreneurship is a way of life that springs from fundamental education and research programs. We will work to infuse understanding and encouragement of entrepreneurship through all schools and programs. Specifically, we will:

  • Expand the Institute’s fundamental research activity in technological entrepreneurship and the management of innovation.
  • Teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurship — and intrapreneurship — to students across all majors, establishing a general curriculum requirement in this area.
  • Expand opportunities for students to create innovation by increasing the number of hands-on courses, such as: Introduction to Engineering Design, Inventors Studio, and Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory; programs such as Product Design and Innovation, and competitions such as the Formula SAE car project.
  • Provide opportunities for students to work in settings where technology is being commercialized, such as entrepreneurial faculty projects, internships, and co-op experiences.
  • Create opportunities in the Rensselaer Union and in the residence halls for students to propose, design, and implement projects, processes, and organizations.

Expanding Innovation & Entrepreneurship on Campus

Needs, Mindsets, Ideas & Potential Action Items for Advancement

  1. The joint venture between the NCIIA and Epicenter is all about values and empowering students, with the goal of bringing ideas to life that will be beneficial to society and to the economy. Values such as raising people, especially the most needy, out of poverty and helping them fulfill their potential. These are the kind of values that students must be empowerd with and that must be ingraned into engineering education.

    A majority of RPI student want to make a difference in the world. They want to change it for the better for billions of people. But, they must be equipped with the right skillsets in order to do so. Innovative and entrepreneurial thinking must be better ingrained into their education, as they learn that TECHNOLOGY has the ability to play a critical role in solving these kinds of problems. Leveraging the power of smart phones, sensors, and the Internet is key in order to create DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES for health, education, envrionment, and raising the standard of living. Integrating these values into engineering educaiton is key to empowering students to develop a strong sense of empathy and a passionate desire to take action.

    Some key books that are value-driven, which state that work must be based on clear values are:

    * How Will You Value Your Life - Clayton Christianson

    * Start with Why - Michael Sinek
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  2. Students and professors must be fully aware of the fact that the world has changed. Acknowledgement is not enough. RPI has opportunity to be one of the LEADERS in using technology to benefit billions of people. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the President of RPI, has made innovation and entrepreneurship one of the key goals in the Refresh Rensselaer Plan. HER LEADERSHIP MUST BE EMPHASIZED. Her input, and that of the Provost and the Deans at RPI must be heard. Their suggestions regarding the efforts to expand the ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship at RPI must be noted and vocalized; the department heads and heads of curriculum in each department at RPI must be drilled down with this information. 
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  3. What we teach MUST change. Professor Tina Seelig said it beautifuly in her Innovation Enginer talk - we must learn how to think like ? + ? = 10, not 5 + 5 = ?. Sure, “engineers make sure bridges don’t fall down," it is their responsibility. But engineers can also create new ways to communicate, new paths to education, and new technology that makes it possible for any one person, anywhere in the world, to get the best possible healthcare and education.

    Another beautiful example is Max Little's TED talk about Parkinson’s diagnosis. His innovation is massively scalable, continues to learn, and costs essentially nothing. Shouldn’t healthcare, education, and opportunity fit the same requirements? Why aren't students stretched to reach for the ideal in their designs?
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  4. It is so very important to provide students with the right skills.

    “Knowledge and Thoroughness” is the current RPI motto, along with "Why not change the world?" But what will, and should, the new motto be?  "Change the world" is too vague and does not adequately point out the threats poised by inequalities.

    Students need to learn to see opportunities without being told what to do, and they need to make their visions into reality. They can't sit back asking "Why not change the world?" but rather, they need to sit back and say "How can I change the world?" "What is the next step?" "What difference can I make TODAY?" and "Am I doing work that is making an impact? Am I building the skillsets I need?"
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  5. Technology must be focused on making life better for the 99%, not for the elite and their fancier kitchens, cars, or toys. If students learn to focus on the most needy, then everyone can use the technology. There are many people right in North Troy, New York who are struggling to survive.  THEY are our customers, not the 1%.
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  6. What are the barriers to succeeding? The faculty certainly have not been forced to think differently like this, but they MUST now be forced to think differently. 
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The Early Adopters and Getting the Movement Started 

Strategy #1 - Faculty Reach

Start with a few faculty members - the “early adopters” - who will introduce creativity, opportunity-finding, innovation, and an entrepreneurial ATTITUDE into their courses.

Strategic targets as early adopters:

  • Mark Steiner - make changes in Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) classes

Strategy #2 - TEDx & Events That Inspire

ate them to take their academics more seriously, and look at their learning as an opportunity to develop their portfolio of skillsets that will equip them with the tools to make a difference in the world. 

Sustaining the Movement 

Strategy #1 - support

Gain support from alumni and from companies who hire RPI graduates.

Listed below; frequently growing:


  • Ecovative Design
  • Texas Instruments
  • Gerber Scientific


  • Steven Sasson
  • Gary Burrell

Strategy #2 - On-Campus Partnerships

Work with the Alumni Association Director:

  • To reach out to companies that advise each of the departments on campus
  • To get input on changing the curriculum


Change the culture of RPI and get more students involved with entreprenuership and innovation initiatives on campus.

Related Links

Meghan Olson

Ray Parker

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute