New Albany expansion made possible through generous gifts

Students take advantage of the new Robinson University Union in New Albany.

Students at Purdue Polytechnic New Albany have been enjoying a new commons area at the location thanks to gifts from a local couple and an anonymous donor. The gathering space is named in honor of Phyllis Robinson and her husband, the late James Robinson. Andrew Takami, Purdue Polytechnic New Albany director, said the renovated space filled a void at the location.

“We did not have student space, either for students to gather or to work in teams, or to host special events,” he said. The James W. and Phyllis A. Robinson University Union fills all of those needs while creating a welcoming environment to all.

A $500,000 anonymous gift and a $100,000 gift from the Robinsons made the upgrade possible. Their generosity will also help fund updates to the location’s academic programs in the form of new space, new equipment and outreach opportunities. They are the latest in a string of updates made possible by supporters in the New Albany and Louisville, Kentucky, region.

The location, headquartered in the Purdue Research Park of Southeast Indiana, expanded into the building’s second floor during the 2015-16 academic year to provide extra space for the computer graphics technology program.

“It allowed us to add a green screen and get lighting and radio microphones,” Takami said. “It enabled us to really grow our ability to teach digital filmmaking and increase our bandwidth for animation and gaming. We can now create more movie-type simulations and other hands-on learning opportunities.”

Because of the expansion, the location is now able to offer bachelor’s degree options in four computer graphics areas: computer graphics technology, animation, game studies, and web programming and design.

With the expanded presence, four of the location’s professors across four disciplines created the STEAM Design Center. It is a student-focused enterprise that will plan, manage, design and produce products and services for Purdue Polytechnic and real-world clients. It also offers a specific focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.

See photos of some of the new spaces at Purdue Polytechnic New Albany (Flickr album).

Facilities and programs are not the only beneficiaries of donor generosity. A grant from the Duke Energy Foundation has helped the location create outreach opportunities to interest more students in the Purdue Polytechnic academic programs.

“We created a program called Purdue: Mission to Mars. We simulated a NASA experience similar to what students would experience in the real world. Students had to model robots, engineer them, test them, use their leadership skills, and create a video where the president would speak to the nation,” Takami said. “It highlights skills they would learn in each of our programs.” Purdue: Mission to Mars was the main onsite recruitment event for area high school students and their families last year. It will return next year as part of the location’s Day in College recruitment event.

The Duke Energy Foundation grant also supported an event for high school women interested in STEM disciplines and a mini makers fair, which showcases capstone projects across all of the majors offered in New Albany.

“Philanthropy has always been a key part of our success in New Albany and around the state at other Purdue Polytechnic locations. Because of our connection to Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, we are able to share the strong Purdue brand and reputation, and people respond to that,” Takami said. “In New Albany, we’re very grateful that so many have shared our vision for making Purdue bachelor's degrees available right here in our community.”