I would change the focus of the school. I know RPI needs to bring in research money to stay afloat, but so many of the professors that they hire care only about research and hardly at all about the students. I've had some really bad experiences where the professor, while very nice, just could not teach. The lectures we basically just repeats of the book, and he/she seemed confused when going over problems. RPI still has a great reputation though. When I tell people I go there, it's almost always "wow, you must be smart." Same reaction when I say I'm in engineering. A few people have even referred to RPI as the step below MIT. It's nice to have that kind of recognition for your college. The Union is where a lot of students spend a huge amount of time. There are places to eat, so many people will grab lunch and do homework between classes, and almost every group meeting I've been to has started at the Union. Also, lots of club meetings take place there as well. It's probably the "social hub" of campus. RPI's administration is the one thing that angers me to no end about the school. There seems to be a lot of student disapproval for the president and other high-ranking officials. The biggest recent controversy was the president and dean of engineering getting rid of the environmental engineering program, and combining it with the civil engr curriculum. This eliminates the requirement that Env. Engrs take organic chemistry, which is part of what made the program so highly regarded by environmental professionals. Also, it was the first Env Engr program in the country, and still one of the best. Also, the president is trying to shift the school to be more of a university, which a lot of people don't agree with (largely because most people are engineering majors, and that is what the school is known for - we think it should continue to be its main focus). The Electronic Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is going to be completed soon - millions of our tuition $ going towards something that most people view as unnecessary. The administration claims that people will be able to use their skills to help put on performances, but honestly, what is a nuclear engineer going to do? Also, RPI is NOT known for its athletics. The only division 1 sport is hockey, and they have been seriously lacking wins the past few years. But that didn't stop the admin from building the East Campus Athletic Village. Most people I've talked to agree that it is also a large waste of money, and annoying because it shut down one of the main roads through upperclassmen housing. BUT that said, I love RPI and I am glad I made the decision to go there. I love the people I've met, the things I have tried (rock climbing, for example), and I've even enjoyed the majority of classes I've taken.
RPI is awesome. And insane. And insanely awesome. I love the elective classes they offer here. I love the teachers. I love the lab opportunities. I love how well I fit in with the other people who chose to go here. Ok, so the core classes are kind of big--I'd take Intro to Bio and split it up, making bio for bio majors and bio for other majors, both to make it smaller and to make it more interesting for biologists without murdering everybody else. And the Ochem class is huge. But for the most part, now that I'm through almost all of my core classes, the elective classes are a perfect size. I have about 25 in my Extracellular Matrix class, and there's only 9 in my Advanced Cell class. I know I'm not a typical student, being a bio major, but it's ok--other engineering classes are like this too, or so I'm told. The one thing I did face on entering RPI is that, when everyone asked where I was going, the first reaction was, "Isn't that like 3 guys to a girl? Why would you, as a girl, want to go there?" This is a totally unfounded question, at least for me. I am never the only girl in a class, and I do have a lot of girl friends, as well as my guy friends. When I'm here, I spend a lot of time in two places (outside of class, of course): the library and the biotech center. The biotech doesn't really count, since I have a job there, but the library is an amazing place to hang out, even if you're not doing work. I only wish they had a better fiction section. Last week I was in the library with a friend of mine, and we'd had such a stressful week that she and I just made paper airplanes out of scrap and played with them. We didn't bother anyone and they didn't bother us--we were just able to relax. I've had some really special times here, but the one I'll remember the most was when all of my friends dressed up and brought a tablecloth and wineglasses and fancy plates and candles and flowers and grapejuice in wine bottles to Commons dining hall and had a formal dinner. It was a totally random day, but one of my friends suggested it so I planned it out. I heard some people did it again this year, too, but it wasn't my friends. I'll always remember walking to Walmart to buy a frying pan, baking cookies in the dormitories, and our insane library parties freshman year. I love that this school brought us all together, not to sound all sappy and everything, but seriously, I am so thankful. The community here is amazing.
The best thing about RPI is definitely the people here. Everyone is smart, at your level or above. If you want to make a dorky science joke, almost everyone here will get it. There's also a ton of activities on campus, from intramurals, to clubs (I think it's over 175 now, and all of the funds for those clubs are student-controlled), to events like movies, dances, lectures, or performances. The one thing I'd like to change about RPI is the lack of communication between the administration and students. The administration doesn't consult with students about important decisions, such as the almost-finished EMPAC building on campus for graduate art students, or the now-being-built Athletic Village. If they bothered to connect about important issues such as this construction and other issues, there would be a lot less unhappiness with the administration in the student body. I love the size of RPI. It's a medium-sized school (about 5,000 students), and it feels like the perfect size to me. I can walk to my classes on campus and see enough people that I know to feel like I belong, but I don't feel like I'm seeing the same old people constantly. I'm fairly local, so when I tell people I go to RPI, they are impressed because it's known for being a good school. Most people first ask if I'm going for science or engineering when they hear I'm at RPI, because it's known as an engineering school. I spend most of my time on campus in the classrooms, and study areas near the classrooms, as well as in the dorms. There is also a lot to do immediately outside of campus. Troy is not completely a college town yet, but it is slowly being revitalized and there are a lot of great restaurants and whatnot to hang out in downtown. There is also Albany, the capital, about a 15-minute drive away. One experience I'll always remember at RPI is the Freshman Orientation program. It really was an amazing introduction to RPI and the people here, and got me so excited for college. I met a ton of people in those 2 days, and I'm still friends with a lot of them. It gives you the chance to meet people right away, so once you move in, you've already made some friends. I became a Student Orientation Advisor this summer because I had such a great experience myself when I went through the program.
I personally LOVE the earth and environmental sciences department (EES), there are some great professors, they always have food, and everyone in the department undergrads, grads, and professors just enjoy being at RPI, and treat you like you are a friend and not just some numbered undergrad. A lot of people come here for school, hoping when they get out they will be making $$$$, they need to learn to follow what they want to do instead of following their wallet. (thats what i would change). I think the size of RPI is excellent. My classes in the EES department, range from 5 people to a max of 30 people. The freshman classes can tend to be larger. Other departments can have larger/smaler classes depending on who has to take the class (all the engineers or just the civil engineers... ). Its a good mix of large and small, and its really easy to meet people in your classes, you start to recognize them, or become friends with them. When i tell people i go to RPI, they say, oh man you must be smart/a nerd. Its not really the case, i just work hard and get things done. Most of my time on campus is in my classes, being an RA in my hall, or with friends. Some parts of TROY, can be considered a college town, however there are a lot of residents of Troy. It's not a total college town, but its a decent mix between the city of troy and a college town. RPI's administration, well, there are some problems, but i think they will get worked out, like every school. Biggest recent controversy on campus was with RPI's administration, if you are interested please read about the faculty senate. (2007-2008). For school pride, it depends. You can find people who have a lot of it, and you can find people who dont. Just go to the hockey games, and you will see that the people there have a lot of pride, while singing school songs and chants. However, not all students go to the hockey game, and not all students participate. Its mixed. RPI, everything is unusual, you'll get used to it. Most frequent student complaints, well, recently its the city of troy and rpi not plowing roads or closing campus when it needs to be closed, the school has a lot of commuter students and they dont really do a good job at plowing the roads, and school doesnt get closed.
The best thing about RPI is all of the opportunities that it provides. From studying abroad and going on co-ops or internships to simply the vast variety of clubs and activities, there is something for everyone. If there's one thing I would change (besides the painstaking process of trying to spell the school's name right!), it would have to improving the guidance department because they don't really help. For me, the school size is just right. When I tell people that I go to RPI, they tell me about how they know that it's a good school (although one can get the occasional "I've never heard of it."). I spend most of time on campus chilling in my dorm and doing things with the pep band. RPI and "college town" are two phrases that one does not use in the same sentence without be laughed at. Although Brown's is excellent, Troy stinks (literally and figuratively). 'Nuff said (although Albany and especially Latham are really nice and they're both only a short drive away). RPI's administration is at the top of their game. They always know what they're talking about and if they don't, they strive to find the right answer. I suppose the biggest recent controversy on campus would have to be the issue of the faculty senate, but frankly, I couldn't care less. Students take much pride in RPI (try to go one day without seeing ten students wearing an RPI sweatshirt). One thing that's unusual about RPI is that we have two mascots! YEAH PUCKMAN AND REDHAWK (and also Alby, the albino squirrel, may he rest in peace)!! One experience that I will always remember is NRB because I had such an amazing time making new friends and playing games!
The best thing about RPI is that everyone is smart and usually willing to help you out for nothing in return. Supposedly its easy to find a job after you graduate (unless you do a fringe major like Philosophy). There are enough people here that you can find your niche, whatever it is, but not so many that you get lost in the crowd. I see at least one friend, and tons of familiar faces every day on my way to class. But it doesn't feel crowded. The kids here take up projects voluntarily for stuff like going green, and theres papers and grafiti taped up around the student union and bridge with slogans and causes, but people don't hound you about them. The administration are greedy bastards who are trying to turn this school into a pure IVY league school with a strong liberal arts program, and feel that yearly 7% increases in tuition that you never see in scholarships or school programs is a good idea. This is supposed to be a tech school. I suppose that kind of sucks, but at least so far it hasn't seemed to have effected the science and engineering programs in too negative a way. Students routinely make fun of the EMPAC building (Experimental Media and Performance Arts Center) by calling it the "EMPAC spaceship" because its ugly and useless and taking years longer than it was supposed to to be built. RPI is also building a new Sports center that less than half the student population will use, but what is supposedly responsible for the huge tuition increases. The tuition here is too fucking much, but the return on investment makes up for it.
The school is little known outside the Engineering atmosphere, and you will have to end up saying "I go college at Rensselaer... Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute... Yes, Ren-sa-leer... RPI... It's a college in New York" But since you'll be employed by other engineers, it really doesn't matter if your mom's friend's co-worker doesn't know what college you went to. The campus is condensed, and only takes about 10 minutes to walk to the farthest corner away. A lot of the buildings are older, but *everywhere* is in range of a wireless signal, and most places have an ethernet jack. The class sizes are a little too large to be able to get 1on1 time with the professors, and the professors sometimes lack the ability to keep the students engaged. The town around the area is anti-college students, with a lot of older couples staked out in their wilting homes that will sometimes call noise complaints. School pride is great at hockey games, and randomly at parties and events, but you'll notice that the less social students look at the floor while passing people in the hallways, and it is hard to get to know a lot of people if you are not Greek because of the overwhelming greek population. Students mainly complain that there are not enough girls, and that the area is too cold in the winter. Both are true, but both are not bad enough for me to wish i went anywhere else.
RPI's size is just perfect! It's small enough where you can get personalized attention from professors and constantly run into friends on campus, but large enough to not feel trapped in a small social environment. Troy is a pretty crappy town, but RPI has been putting a lot of money into it recently and it's really improving! It will take some time, but I've been here 4 years and am seeing many improvements. It is a cheap place to live, so many artists who can't afford to live in big cities like New York are coming in. More and more coffee shops and galleries are opening up downtown, and it's slowly turning into a nicer place. The president, Shirley Ann Jackson, is corrupt and full of awful policies that will drive RPI down. We are known for our engineering and science departments, and in trying to make RPI a University, she is taking money away from these departments and giving them to the Art department instead. While it would be great to improve art at RPI, it should not happen as a detriment to the programs that are RPI's strengths and selling points. They are trying to change the name to Rensselaer University; this is met with disagreement from students, who like the RPI name. Furthermore, she recently stirred up controversy with faculty for cutting their pensions, and students for placing harsh restrictions on their social life.
RPI is a school designed to funnel rich white kids with no ambition into generic high-paying jobs they don't care about. It's exceedingly good at this, and most people here have no problem with this system (and actively promote it). There's no "campus community" outside of this goal, and the surrounding area makes it hard to get away from the system even if you want to. The only significant political activity in the past four years has been when they tried to ban drinking from public areas in fraternities, and these four years include the board of trustees dissolving the faculty senate. You'd think the students would care about that. If you have no goals for college that aren't "party a lot" or "get a high-paying job," RPI is the perfect school for you. I'm not being facetious - for most of the student body, this is exactly what they're here for, and they're getting it in spades. There are some pockets of the institution that aren't like this, like the arts department, the cognitive science department, and I assume the architecture department (even though I've never actually met any of them). For everything engineering or management, though, this is exactly what's going on, and this culture permeates the entire school such that it's impossible to escape no matter where you are.
I could not be more happy that I chose to attend RPI. I found friends more similar to me than anyone I ever knew in high school. There is rarely a walk I take that I do not see at least one person I know; I'm always glad to give and receive a friendly hello. The size of campus is wonderful for walking; however, for upperclassmen who live in the residence halls farther away from academic campus, shuttles are readily available. Walking throughout campus is aesthetically pleasing as well, with the flowers, trees, and brick buildings. I am rather involved in campus, so I notice a lot of school spirit, which just makes for a fun college experience. Hockey games are especially exciting and are a campus-wide pass-time, which pleases me because I love hockey. Even though I am already involved on campus, there are so many interesting opportunities, I wish I could participate in more clubs and activities. My major disappointment with Rensselaer is the lack of a foreign language program, considering I adore languages. I wish Troy were more of a college town or more of a city-atmosphere, but downtown Troy has some wonderful mom and pop type businesses that I rather enjoy.