Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


October 1999

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Founded in 1824, Rensselaer (pronounced “rens-ler”) Polytechnic Institute (RPI) sits on a bluff in Troy, New York overlooking the Hudson River. Troy is 10 miles from Albany and 150 miles north of New York City.

RPI enjoys a reputation as one of the leading technological universities in the world. Yahoo! Internet Life recently ranked RPI as the fifth most “wired” college in the nation.

RPI has a student population of approximately 4500 undergraduate and 1800 graduate students (25 percent are women and 17 percent are self-identified minorities).

Developed in 1952, RPI’s technical communication studies is among the oldest in the English-speaking world. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in the field.

The centerpiece of undergraduate education in technical communication is a multidisciplinary bachelor of science program offered jointly by the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication (LLC) and Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC).

EMAC offers a BS in Communication, an MS in Technical Communication, and an MFA in Electronic Arts.

The Department of Language, Literature, and Communication offers an MS in Technical Communications, an MS and PhD in Communication and Rhetoric, and two certificate programs. Approximately 200 students enroll in each of the department’s graduate degree and certificate programs.

The 30-credit Masters Program in Technical Communication requires a minimum of two semesters of study focusing on theory, writing, text design, and the analysis of communication systems and contexts. Many graduate students extend their studies in this program through a cooperative education assignment to enhance their technical skills.

The MS in Communication and Rhetoric shares some of the same elements and focus as the Technical Communication program. However, the emphasis in the Communication and Rhetoric program is more on theory and research, which is consistent with its principal goal of preparing students for teaching at the community college or secondary level or doctoral study, though almost a third of the students enrolled in this program go on to work in industry.

RPI offers two technical communications certificate programs-one in Human-Computer Interaction and the other in Graphics and Visual Communication. Both certificate programs require completion of 16 credit hours. Both programs may be taken independently or as the elective part of a masters degree program.

The Human-Computer Interaction Certificate Program involves a collaboration between RPI and several industry partners. It provides an overview of the application of human factors research to areas such as usability, electronic coaching, task-oriented communication, and design for the Web.

The Graphic and Visual Communication Certificate Program seeks to equip information professionals with advanced skills and theoretical understanding in the use of desktop publishing systems and text and graphics design.

Students in both EMAC’s bachelor program and the LLC Department’s graduate programs are provided numerous opportunities for industry contact, including internships and co-ops-brief, fully paid work opportunities for students. RPI’s Career Development Center succeeds in quickly placing technical communication undergraduate and graduate students with starting salaries averaging $3-4000 above averages reported by the STC for comparable individuals.

The Department of Language, Literature, and Communication has affiliations with such professional groups as SIGRAF and STC and has faculty members on the board of IEEE. This month, the American Computing Machinery’s Special Documentation section (ACMSigDoc) will formally present an award for excellence in technical communication to Rensselaer’s LLC department. CIDMIconNewsletter