On Saturday, 1,703 students will receive degrees from Rensselaer in the East Campus Athletic Village (ECAV) stadium. They represent the next generation of leaders, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, patent holders, game designers, architects, and innovators, in fields ranging from engineering to architecture, fine arts to science, game design to information technology, and business to the military.
During the 210th Commencement Ceremony, Rensselaer will award a total of 1,877 degrees. They include: 140 doctoral degrees, 489 master’s degrees, and 1,248 bachelor’s degrees. Some graduates have earned more than one degree.
A Global Community
In 2016, graduating students come from more than 42 states, in addition to New York. The Class of 2016 contains graduates from 24 other nations, including Canada, China, Colombia, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Turkey.
The Commencement Speaker Is…
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, will deliver the 2016 Commencement address. Cousin will receive an honorary degree at the ceremony for her contributions as leader of the world’s largest humanitarian organization and her role in raising awareness of food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. Cousin guides WFP in meeting urgent food needs while championing longer-term solutions to food insecurity and hunger. As the leader of the world’s largest humanitarian organization, she is an exceptional advocate for improving the lives of hungry people worldwide. In 2009, Cousin was confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. Previously, Cousin served as White House Liaison to the State Department, during which time she was appointed to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, and executive vice president and chief operating officer of Feeding America. A Chicago native, Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Georgia Law School.
Taking the Podium
Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson also will address members of the Class of 2016. The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Recently, she was presented with the 2014 National Medal of Science, the highest honor for scientific achievement bestowed by the United States government. It was presented by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony. The award honors individuals deserving of special recognition for their outstanding cumulative contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or behavioral or social sciences, in service to the nation. At Rensselaer, President Jackson has undertaken a transformation of the university’s pedagogical approach with the implementation of The New Polytechnic, emphasizing collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address key intersecting challenges and opportunities in energy security, health, food, water, and national security, as well as the linked challenges of climate change and allocation of scarce resources so critical to our future.
Over the course of her career, she has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, and research, as well as academe. President Jackson’s early distinguished research career as a theoretical physicist, included tenures at both the storied Bell Labs and Rutgers University. She served as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1995 to 1999.
In 2014, President Obama appointed President Jackson as Co-Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which assesses issues pertaining to the quality, quantity, and adequacy of intelligence activities. In addition, she sits on the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board and the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. From 2009 to 2014, she served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which assists the White House in policy formulation in the many areas of science, technology, and innovation that are crucial to strengthening the economy and increasing opportunity. In 2011, she co-authored a report to the President offering an overarching strategy for revitalizing the leadership of the nation in manufacturing.
Class of 2016 President Joshua Schramm, a chemical engineering major, also will address the graduates. The Randolph, N.J., native is also a member of the Greek Life Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Following graduation, Schramm will be working at SABIC Plastics in Selkirk, N.Y., in the plastics division.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Cousin will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremony. She will join Dr. David Skorton, 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Dr. Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate and professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Texas.
Dr. David Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Previously, he was president of Cornell University and professor of medicine, pediatrics, and biomedical engineering. He will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Prior to Cornell, Dr. Skorton was president of the University of Iowa and a faculty member, with research focused on cardiac imaging and image processing and clinical practice focused on adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Skorton is a nationally recognized advocate for the arts and humanities. He was the host of a Latin jazz radio show on Iowa Public Radio and plays the saxophone and flute. Dr. Skorton earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Northwestern University and did his postgraduate medical training at UCLA.
Dr. Steven Weinberg is the Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Chair in Science and Regental Professor at the University of Texas. He will receive a Doctor of Science degree. His research has been honored with the Nobel Prize in physics, the National Medal of Science, and numerous other awards, and election to the National Academy of Science, Britain’s Royal Society, and other academies in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to six scientific treatises, he has written several books for general readers, including Dreams of a Final Theory, The First Three Minutes, and To Explain the World, and two collections of published essays, many of which first appeared in The New York Review of Books. For this, he has received the Lewis Thomas Award for the Scientist as Poet and other awards. Educated at Cornell, Copenhagen, and Princeton, he taught at Columbia, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard, where he was Higgins Professor of Physics, before coming to Texas.
This year, four Rensselaer employees are graduating. In addition, eight children of Rensselaer employees also are graduating.
All in the Family
The Rensselaer degree is well-known throughout the world as a symbol of technological excellence and achievement. Rensselaer alumni and alumnae are leaders. They are collaborative, able, and smart. This year, 87 members of the Class of 2016 are Rensselaer “legacies,” students with relatives who attended the university.
*Please Note: All numbers and facts include Troy campus students and degrees issued in August and December 2015. This information does not include the Rensselaer Hartford campus. All of the numbers cited are estimated as of May 28, 2016, and are subject to change up until Commencement.