In her own words, Sarah Schattschneider will tell you that her education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute taught her to “find a problem and act to solve it.” The theme unites her studies – a combined focus on computer science and the social impacts of design, her work as a mentor and president of the Computer Science Club, and her first post-graduate job as a software engineer for Blue Apron.
“What I’m really passionate about is combining the two sets of knowledge I’ve gained at RPI to solve real-world problems and make a positive impact in everyday life,” said Schattschneider, who grew up in Chappaqua, New York. “Through Design, Innovation, and Society, I’m better able to understand how the world works, what the main problems are, and how to solve the identified problem. And through Computer Science, I’ve learned technical skills necessary to build solutions, often in creative ways.”
Schattschneider has an impressive resume. In addition to her coursework, she was a 2016 winner of the Rensselaer Founders Award of Excellence, the highest honor awarded during Honors Convocation; she completed two internships at Time Inc. and Pinterest; she served as president of the Computer Science club for two years; and she mentored students through the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program.
Equally impressive are the projects Schattschneider has taken on through her various roles.
As president of the Computer Science Club, Schattschneider set a goal of creating a better community among students of computer science. Collaborating with students who shared her vision, the club arranged weekly presentations and technical talks, bringing representatives of companies – including Etsy, Yelp, Bloomberg, and Google – to campus to expose students to the various professional opportunities in computer science.
“I saw a need for a more active social and professional club, and I jumped in to act on it,” said Schattschneider. “As a group, we wanted a club that would generate and facilitate a new kind of culture, more collaborative, bringing people together to talk to each other and work on professional growth.”
Through an assignment in Rensselaer’s Design, Culture, and Society class, Schattschneider initiated a renovation of a public space in the campus’ Richard G. Folsom Library. The assignment called for a proposal to redesign a space on campus that inhibited community growth, so Schattschneider and her teammates focused on a space in the basement of the library. When the semester ended, she and classmate Katie Kanai continued the project, working with the Rensselaer Campus Planning and Facilities department and the Rensselaer Pi chapter of Zeta Psi to both fund the redesign and see their design constructed as a new presentation room.
And while working with the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program, Schattschneider determined to offer her support to younger computer science students outside the program.
“Within the Computer Science department there is a great culture of peers collaborating and supporting one another. However, it can be harder to cultivate that community across class years. While serving as a mentor, I recognized that need, and I wanted to help, so I began actively mentoring younger students outside of my assigned mentees,” Schattschneider said. “It’s been very rewarding to help first-year students get their bearings on campus and see them grow.”
Schattschneider knows her computer science and design skills could have taken her to almost any industry, enabling her to follow her passions through her career. After graduation, she will begin her career as a software engineer for Blue Apron, a company that delivers a predesigned cooking experience through a recipe and perfectly proportioned ingredients, often sourced directly from farms.
“I’m excited because Blue Apron is a company that has a social mindset. Like students from Rensselaer, Blue Apron employees are aware of the world around them and conscious of their impact on far-reaching communities,” Schattschneider said. “It’s a great opportunity to make a difference.”
Schattschneider’s experience is an example of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for higher education which recognizes that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Rensselaer serves as a crossroads for collaboration — working with partners across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions — to address complex global challenges, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges — from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.
About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.