RPI Student Orientation 2009
I took Brie to "Student Orientation" at RPI for the last two days (July 15 / 16th).   Funny how some things have changed since I graduated in '81 and some haven't.  Probably the most significant thing is that the orientation seems much more student and parent friendly than in 1977... I remember sitting in CEC 308 and hearing "Look to the right of you... look to the left of you... now, one of the three of you won't be here at the end of Freshman year.  Make sure it's one of the guys sitting next to you." 

The last couple of days, in contrast, was almost over-the-top friendly.  Everyone was there to make the student's experience a positive one, to help however possible.  And they seemed so... sincere.  And they showed videos of something called "Navigating Rensselaer", which seems to be a big multi day student bonding party before classes start.  And they were all eloquent, and FUNNY.  Even the women running Campus Security (errrr.. public safety, that is) had the entire crowd listening and laughing and hanging on every word.  Even... and I know you're going to think I'm so stressed out over paying tuition costs that I've lost my mind... even the vendor that provides food services to RPI sounded like he was extremely excited about the food options (including a touch-screen based automated menu ordering system in the new upperclassmen dorms) they've made available at RPI (honest to everything Holy, he said "this is the FIRST TIME this have ever been offered at any educationally institution on the East Coast" and I was thinking "wow, that's pretty cool.")

Somehow, it seems like the administration at RPI has developed... dare I say it?... people skills. Fortunately, there are some things that have remained the same, enough to provide some element of nostalgia.

The CEC 208 seats are as hard as ever and have that little bump right at the lower section of your shoulder blades so there is no possible way to sit comfortably.  I'm pretty sure these are the same seats I sat in 32 years ago.  But I didn't sit down, get my winter jacket half way off, and fall asleep in the process, so that was different.

The Folsom Library is as industrial-concrete-motif as ever, and Technology is still worshiped at Voorhees Computer Center... but the EMPAC is pretty cool looking, even if it's undergoing repair / renovations / something and, for the third time this year, I couldn't take a picture inside.
The engineering/science is still hard core, and in fact, seems like it's about to break through the top; this is all conversational stuff (that is, I don't really know how the information was determined), but it seems like the new computing center has the most powerful 100 Teraflop computer in the world (apparently the envy of MIT), the Bio and Nano Technology centers are the best in the US (and maybe the world), the top three recent astrophysicists graduates in the US are RPI grads, the EMPAC is the most advanced of its kind in the world (not sure that really counts, but let's throw it in there), RPI is now in the top twenty universities in the world for published research in a variety of areas, and there's a coffee shop named "Java++" which just warms my CompSci centric heart.  Brie's advisor implied that the 'tute was still catching up with all the new facilities and equipment and would be pushing the boundaries even harder for some time to come.

All in all, it was a fun visit, and it was interesting to see in more detail how RPI is changing while retaining it's historical propensity for graduating practical engineers that can actually build things, unlike certain ivory tower ... or is it ivy league?... technical institutions.  I have to admit, I am a little envious of Brie, particularly with the coffee shop.  And she's in the Taj Mahal of freshman dorms, Barton. 

But I do still love the place. 

And, for those interested. Bob was here...


   Facing the past (Archway of the Quad    facing the Student Union in 1977)

 Facing the Future (Archway of the Quad facing    the RPI campus 2009)