Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute or RPI is a private research university located in Troy, New York, with two additional campuses in Hartford and Groton, Connecticut. It was founded in 1824 by Stephen van Rensselaer and Amos Eaton for the “application of science to the common purposes of life” and is described as the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world. Built on a hillside, RPI’s 265-acre (107 ha) campus overlooks the city of Troy and the Hudson River and is a blend of traditional and modern architecture. The institute operates an on‑campus business incubator and the 1,250-acre (510 ha) Rensselaer Technology Park. Numerous American colleges or departments of applied sciences were modelled after Rensselaer. The university is one among a small group of polytechnic universities in the United States which tend to be primarily devoted to the instruction of technical arts and applied sciences.
Rensselaer is organized into six main schools within which there are thirty-seven departments: the School of Architecture; School of Engineering; School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; School of Information Technology and Web Science; School of Science; and the Lally School of Management & Technology. The university offers around one hundred forty degree programs in sixty fields leading to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has five schools: the School of Architecture, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the Lally School of Management & Technology, and the School of Science. The School of Engineering is the largest by enrolment, followed by the School of Science, the School of Management, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and the School of Architecture. There also exists an interdisciplinary program in Information Technology that began in the late 1990s, programs in prehealth and prelaw, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for students desiring commissions as officers in the armed forces, a program in cooperative education (Co-Op), and domestic and international exchange programs. Altogether, the university offers around 140 degree programs in nearly 60 fields that lead to bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees.
In addition to traditional majors, RPI has around a dozen special interdisciplinary programs, such as Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Design, Innovation, and Society (DIS), Minds & Machines, and Product Design and Innovation (PDI). RPI is a technology-oriented university; all buildings and residence hall rooms have hard-wired high speed internet access, most of the campus buildings have wireless, and all incoming freshmen have been required to have a laptop computer since 1999. In 2004, Forbes ranked RPI first in terms of wireless as the “most connected campus”. Nationally, RPI is a member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the NAICU’s University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN).
RPI ranks among the top 50 national universities in the United States according to U.S. News & World Report. Several notable 19th century civil engineers graduated from RPI. These include the visionary of the transcontinental railroad, Theodore Judah, Brooklyn Bridge engineer Washington Roebling, George W. G. Ferris (who designed and built the original Ferris wheel). Many RPI graduates have made important inventions, including Allen B. DuMont (’24), creator of the first commercial television; Keith D. Millis, father of the microprocessor; Raymond Tomlinson. Political figures who graduated from RPI included federal judge Arthur J. Gajarsa (B.S. 1962), DARPA director Tony Tether, Representative John Olver of Massachusetts’s 1st congressional district, and Senators Mark Shepard of Vermont and George R. Dennis of Maryland.