Purdue Profiles: Andy Schaffer

March 3, 2015  

Andy Schaffer

Andy Schaffer, associate dean for College of Technology, Statewide. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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Andy Schaffer takes pride in helping extend top-notch technology education to students throughout the state of Indiana through Purdue's Statewide Technology program.

Schaffer, associate dean for statewide technology, divides his time among the program's eight locations, each of which offers four-year degrees from Purdue's College of Technology. Simultaneously, Schaffer also is ushering Statewide Technology through innovations prescribed in the University's Purdue Moves initiatives.

What are some details about Statewide Technology?

Statewide Technology is a direct extension of the College of Technology, and its locations are all around the state. Our eight locations are in Anderson, Columbus, Kokomo, Lafayette, New Albany, Richmond, South Bend and Vincennes.

In many cases, our locations are located in space rented from Indiana University's regional campuses. Exceptions are our sites in New Albany, located at Purdue Research Foundations’ Purdue Technology Center of Southeast Indiana; Anderson, located at Anderson’s Flagship Enterprise Center and the Anderson Innovation Center; Vincennes, located at Vincennes University; and Lafayette, located at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. Our students, however, apply and are serviced through the West Lafayette campus, and our faculty are hired, promoted and tenured though that campus.

As far as academics, we teach core content from the College of Technology, and for non-technology courses, such as general education requirements, we offer courses from our partner universities. We offer six College of Technology degrees across the locations, and the degrees offered at each location depend on which knowledge and skills are most in demand by area employers. Almost all of our programs are very lab-intensive, so students get hands-on learning experiences.

What is an example of Statewide Technology's academic offerings?

In Columbus, for example, we offer undergraduate degrees in computer and information technology, mechanical engineering technology, industrial technology, and organizational leadership.

We have a partnership in Columbus with Cummins Inc., one of the area's largest employers, and so our students often complete internships there and are frequently hired as full-time employees after graduation. What's more, as part of our mechanical engineering technology program, we have a metrology lab, which deals with very precise industrial measurements. The chief metrologist at Cummins works with our faculty and lab staff as an industrial advisor, and our students work in the lab on actual industrial projects.

Across all locations, we grant about 200 degrees each year. Some of our students matriculate with us right out of high school. Other students are nontraditional or attend classes part-time while working full-time jobs.

How does Statewide Technology benefit its students and the state as a whole?

Currently, we have about 1,000 students pursuing bachelor's degrees across all our locations. Nearly all of our students are local residents who are what we call place-bound -- for whatever reason, perhaps related to finances or because they're rooted in jobs or family life, they're tied to a specific geographic area. Without our program, hardly any of those students would be able to access a Purdue education. In many cases, they would not be able to access the higher education they need at all.

Looking at it with a wider lens, Statewide Technology is a great asset to the state of Indiana. Nearly all of our students stay in the state after graduation, so we're preparing Hoosiers for today's workplace and, consequently, we're helping the state's economy. Similarly, employers near our locations know that, when they hire Statewide Technology graduates, they're getting Purdue alumni who are invested in the area, who can be developed in the long term and who can advance in the company.

How is Statewide Technology involved with the Purdue Moves initiatives?

As the College of Technology is changing, and as the Purdue Polytechnic Institute takes shape, we're fully involved and making parallel changes to our program.

For instance, five faculty members from Statewide Technology have been named Polytechnic Institute faculty fellows. Also, Statewide Technology has participated in several pilot programs and incubators related to the institute.

In South Bend, for example, our faculty have combined electrical engineering technology courses with mechanical engineering courses. Four faculty members now team-teach the courses, and they employ open-ended projects and integrative student experiences to transform the learning environment.  This approach also is being used or expanded to other courses and other locations.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding time for me is commencement week, which happens in May. Each location has its own ceremony. With the exception of a few absences, usually due to graduates’ new job requirements, attendance is nearly 100 percent, including all of our faculty and staff.

There's a real family atmosphere during our commencements, and connecting with our graduates and their families is very gratifying. Knowing that we are improving their earning potential and career prospects and, overall, helping to improve society reminds us why we're here.

Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu 

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