EMPAC strives to create society

Building to culture, embody essence of student life - from The Polytechnic

January 1, 2002

This semester marks my twentieth year at Rensselaer. As I reflect upon this period, I've never before had as strong a sense that Rensselaer was moving onward and upward. Last November, I was asked by Dr. Jackson to chair the Vice President of Student Life Search Committee. Through the many conversations that I've had with students since the inception of the search, I'm now aware of the dramatic changes that have taken place since the time that I was in college-generated by a combination of societal shifts, the extraordinary influence of technology and, of course, the web. Instant messaging (to those in the same room), all-embracing athletics (>80 percent), interactive learning (imbued in studio courses), and anytime/anywhere connectivity (via laptop computing) all permeate our campus and now define a very different life for today's college student.

In the midst of all this change, however, one thing has remained the same throughout these past 20 years-the incredible quality of Rensselaer's student body. I've been fortunate enough to have the pleasure of teaching and working with some of the most creative, highly motivated, and knowledge-thirsty students that one could ask for, especially as an engineering educator. I have learned a great deal from your questions and comments, all the while in awe of the intellect that resides at Rensselaer. It is a great honor for me to chair this search and I will strive to do my best on your behalf.

As a quick update, the committee has received and reviewed numerous applications in response to our ads and will soon begin the interview process. In the many correspondences and conversations I've had with both prospective VP candidates and others who have inquired about the recent $130 million donation, a consistent message has come through: the off-campus "buzz" is that other schools now need to sit up and take notice of what we're up to. For example, we're planning to build an Electronic Media and Performing Arts Center that offers state-of-the-art creativity coupled with opportunities to experience the talent of today's hottest performers. Yet, I believe the EMPAC can be much more ...

Imagine a building that is electric in its appearance, transforms the campus, and provides the portal to Rensselaer's Renaissance-a building where "drama at the door" begins to describe the sensation one feels when crossing the threshold, immediately recognizing that this is not a simple shelter but an enabler for the most imaginative elements to be stimulated, researched and developed, demonstrated and experienced. This is a place that you thirst to get into, that recognizes and acknowledges your electronic and physical presence, and that is so captivating that you never want to leave. A campus "living room," where the integration of art and technology can foster and produce new forms of entertainment. Oh, and one more thing-it has a Starbucks ...

Why am I writing about this? How are these paragraphs related? As an EE undergraduate who spent time playing guitar and writing music, I longed for an avenue and a social setting to integrate my technical and artistic passions. Student life is not simply about courses and residence halls, it is four years of your existence. Theatre, music, art, and performance can enrich one's being. Many of you, I'm certain, had these as an integral part of your lives before you entered college. Rensselaer is your school, your society, and your home. Our campus is fertile ground to embrace a vision where technological power enhances creativity, especially considering the skills that Rensselaer's "Leonardo da Vinci" type of student possesses. Make this place all it can be by actively sharing your ideas, concerns, suggestions, opinions and, most of all, your imagination and creativity with faculty, staff, and fellow students. Please let us (the committee members) know what you feel will benefit your home at millard@rpi.edu.

Don Lewis Millard
Director, CIEEM