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President's Message - August 2009

Dear Purdue Supporters,

I sense excitement and energy infusing our campus as students from across the state, nation, and world begin to fill our sidewalks, streets, and classrooms for the fall semester. It is truly a time of new challenges and new possibilities for them. And the Purdue community takes a personal stake in ensuring our students’ education from “launch to landing” is a successful one.

I am pleased to report a substantial jump in Purdue’s rankings by U.S.News & World Report. Purdue ranks 22nd among the nation’s public universities and 61st among all universities. These rankings represent a climb of four and five places, respectively.

President Córdova
poses with Purdue Pete and cheerleaders

Purdue’s rise in rankings shows our continued commitment to the student experience. It has been a year since we adopted our New Synergies strategic plan, and the rankings reflect that it is working. We are seeing positive trends — higher graduation rates, more classes with fewer students, and an alumni giving rate that increased from 16 percent to 18 percent.

This academic year, several exciting new initiatives from our New Synergies strategic plan will help launch our leaders of tomorrow. My message to you includes just a few of the highlights along with some links if you’d like to know more.

Creating New Pathways

This month we announced the Pathways Program in partnership with Ivy Tech State College. The program prepares Ivy Tech students interested in agriculture to pursue an undergraduate degree in Purdue’s College of Agriculture. Students take courses simultaneously at both institutions — Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and Ivy Tech's Lafayette campus — and are guaranteed admission to Purdue’s College of Agriculture following completion of their associate degree with Ivy Tech. Students may reside in Purdue housing throughout the program.

A new Purdue program — the inaugural Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellow Program — will send specially trained math and science teachers into Indiana rural schools to strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) instruction. Eighteen students were selected as program fellows and are now pursuing one-year master’s degrees in STEM-related areas on our West Lafayette campus. They each receive a stipend of $30,000 toward their education. Purdue also provides each student with a graduate tuition scholarship. In return, the fellows agree to teach in an Indiana school for three years.

A rigorous high school plan of study increases a student’s choices after graduation and their chances for success while in college. Purdue recently adopted an admissions standard that requires students to complete four years of high school math, effective for the class entering in fall 2011. Studies support this direction. By completing just one additional unit of intensive high school math, a student’s likelihood of completing a bachelor's degree increases by 73 percent.

There are many other ongoing and new initiatives that encourage and support our students. Our first-year experience programs, including learning communities, orientation programs and our new common reading program, are designed to increase and enhance retention and recently were cited as “Programs to Watch” in the rankings by U.S.News & World Report.

This is the sort of environment we strive for at Purdue as we work toward the best experience for our students and community.

Enhancing the Purdue Experience

Our campus draws an international student body that is the second largest among United States public universities. In today’s global economy, this is a distinct advantage for all of our students. To further support our University’s longstanding goals of diversity and inclusion, we welcome Dr. Christine Taylor, Purdue’s very first vice provost for diversity and chief diversity officer. Taylor most recently served as associate vice president for institutional diversity at Miami University of Ohio.

With most students off campus during the summer, we focus on building maintenance and renovations, which will enhance campus life. This summer the Colby Fitness Center in the Recreational Sports Center received a facelift and a new residence hall was completed. First Street Towers accepted its first tenants (365 upperclassmen) this fall. The building features a new design in collegiate living arrangements — combining the benefits of a contemporary single-room dwelling with the community aspects of a traditional residence hall.

Purdue students build strong leadership skills and become a part of the campus community through 745 sanctioned student organizations. Some of these activities have earned national distinction. Our intramural sports program and our student newspaper, The Exponent, received kudos this month in the Princeton Review's “Best Colleges Quality of Life” report, which ranked them 15th and 17th in the nation, respectively. You can see some of our student groups in action by visiting our Boiler Bytes Web video site.

Increasing Student Access and Success

As well-prepared as they are, some of our students do end up struggling with their coursework. With that in mind, this fall in 13 of our large enrollment courses, those students will be singled out for help. Purdue’s information technology faculty and staff created the Signals Program. An algorithm gained through predictive modeling and data-mining from Purdue’s online grade resources — Blackboard Vista and Banner — identifies students with declining academic performance. When a student’s grades fall below a certain level, the Signals system notifies both the student and his/her instructors. The student also receives an e-mail offering helpful campus resources.  Piloted on a smaller scale
during the past two academic years, the program will be able to assist more than 7,000 students in these designated fall classes.

Our Ideas to Innovation Learning Laboratory will bring engineering principles to life for about 1,600 first-year engineering students. These students will experience engineering hands-on through several team-focused, collaborative spaces: the Design Studio, Innovation Studio, Rapid-Prototyping Studio, Fabrication and Artisan Laboratories, and Demonstration Studio.

We continue to make progress towards our student Access and Success fundraising campaign. So far Phase II of Access and Success for scholarships and programs is at $100 million of its $304 million goal, and the campaign will run through June 30, 2014. We also closed the fiscal year nearly $4 million ahead of our annual goal of $210 million for University-wide donations with $214 million raised. Purdue students are already benefitting from the campaign with several new merit and need-based scholarships awarded this fall. Our most recent scholarship, the Yellow Ribbon Program, assists military veterans, reservists, and active duty military students with $2,000 annually towards tuition costs not covered by the GI Bill.

All of these initiatives enhance student learning, reinforce Purdue’s world-class reputation, and ensure synergy between a global marketplace and well-prepared graduates — the leaders of tomorrow. It is invigorating to see the campus sidewalks packed once again with students walking with a destination in mind. We are excited about their arrival, and committed to helping them on every step of their journey.

I wish you all the best and hope you have a chance to visit us on campus this fall. There are many events to be a part of, including our campus Green Week September 21 to 25 and Homecoming October 2 and 3.

Hail Purdue!



France A. Córdova