At its weekly body general meeting on Monday, October 29, the Student Senate, as always, had a laundry list of items to discuss and debate. However, this time, it welcomed Lester Gerhardt, Vice President of the Faculty Senate to speak. Gerhardt is an active member of the Faculty Senate and professor of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering.
Gerhardt has been at Rensselaer for over forty years and is still going strong. An avid intellectual, he has published extensive research in his field and he has mentored several students that have published meaningful work as well. His participation in the field is equally as impressive, as he aided in the creation of the visual simulation of the first moon landing of the Lunar Excursion Module.
More recently, he has set his sights on serving the student body. As mentioned before, he is an active member of the Faculty Senate. At the meeting, he stated that he wished for more involvement between the Student and Faculty Senates in upcoming events and organizing RPI’s academics, research, and wellbeing of students. He claims his door is always open for students to come and talk with him, and that all professors should be equally as welcoming. Given his position in the Faculty Senate, it may be reasonable to assume his more open policy to students may come into play for all professors at RPI.
Also discussed by Gerhardt was the fact that RPI is moving toward being exclusively a tenure track professor school while other universities are moving toward implementing professors just for the purpose of teaching. Some see this as an issue, as it could mean the majority of professors will only teach in order to receive funding for their research. It seemed that Gerhardt believed that it should not be a problem for students who seek a personal experience with an instructor, because RPI will be making sure they are as active in their teaching as they are in their research. He also believes that most professors working at RPI are like him, and want to be here to help students learn just as much as they want to research.
The last piece of business Gerhardt discussed was how he and the Faculty Senate were working on revising the Faculty Handbook. Not too many details were discussed about the exact changes, but he assured that the changes would benefit the students and would make professors more present in the lives of students. Given the way he spoke about an improving participation in student affairs, it is fair to say the changes should work. The plan is for the handbook to be completely modified by the end of the semester and Gerhardt seemed very optimistic about the changes.
At the end of his speech, the Senate seemed grateful for Gerhardt’s talk and his affable nature. His contributions to RPI and all of humanity have been and will continue to be at the forefront of technology and education. After his discourse, regular senate activities convened with nothing too monumental ensuing.
For more information about the Student Senate, contact the Senate via e-mail at JustAsk@rpi.edu.