Shortly after I became dean, we conducted a deep dive into the most relevant data to assess the general health of the college, and it revealed areas for improvement. Our undergraduate programs were suffering from weak demand and our research efforts needed a sense of purpose. Some of this can be explained by things out of our control, but we looked past that and focused on what we were empowered to do. We control our curricular offerings, our teaching methodologies, the support we provide to grow research and, most importantly, our effort – which, to a great extent, means that we control our future. We have to work within the larger Purdue and higher education systems, but we have challenged the status quo on many fronts. And we have succeeded.
Two early taglines we adopted were:
Students first in all we do.
We prepare graduates for jobs that do not yet exist.
These simple lines go to the heart of what we have tried to accomplish as a college. Today, an introspective examination of the most relevant current data shows that we have made remarkable progress and the college is recognized as leading on many fronts, as evidenced by the University’s decision to invest in us with a new building and the funds to continue our growth and leadership. However, while reflecting on past successes is important for the health and psyche of any organization, this is not the time to pause.
I learned a long time ago that, as a dean, there is only so much I can do to have a positive impact on the college and its future. Our collective faculty, staff and students ultimately are in control and determine our identity and brand.
Now, COVID-19 presents a situation unlike any that most of us have faced. We will prioritize the physical health of the Purdue community and again adapt to new circumstances. Since adaptability is a Polytechnic hallmark, I have absolute confidence in our ability to rise to this challenge.
Let’s focus on what we are empowered to do, hold each other accountable, and remain true to our stated vision: pioneers of learn-by-doing education and use-inspired research.