Transformational change at a large, public university? Purdue Polytechnic proved it is possible

I just finished reading a new book, Higher Expectations: Can Colleges Teach Students What They Need to Know in the 21st Century? Author Derek Bok, a past president of Harvard University, examines what higher education needs to do to better prepare graduates for the 21st century needs of our society. Bok suggests using the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) high-impact educational practices as the roadmap in better preparing undergraduates, and then describes the higher education hurdles that plague transformational change. He concludes that transformational change is only possible at small, private colleges.

I respectfully disagree with the author. The Polytechnic Institute is living proof that it is possible to make transformational change in undergraduate education at a large public institution of higher education. Our 10 Elements of Transformation are based on AAUP’s high-impact educational practices, just as Bok recommends. Our transformation was not easy, nor was it fast, but we made significant, positive change in our undergraduate teaching practices and in our students’ learning experiences. Our reward is the strong interest we see in our programs – the number and quality of our applicants and the strong support we continue to receive from the university.

There is still work to be done as we continue our efforts to better prepare our graduates for the 21st century. This is a good time to reflect on our successes and continue our work as we take comfort in the fact that we have done what most dare not to do.

About The Author

Gary Bertoline's picture
Gary R. Bertoline is Dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology, and a Professor of Computer & Information Technology. Prior to becoming dean, he served as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Technology. From 1995 through 2002, Gary served as Department Head of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University.