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August 29, 2012

Initiative offers path for students to graduate in 4 years

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As a new class of students settles in for the academic year on the Purdue University campus, a new initiative is in place to help them earn a bachelor's degree in four years.

4-3-2-1-Graduate! is an initiative developed through the Indiana Commission for Higher Education that is being modified and promoted at Purdue. The initiative's four pillars include:

4 - Graduate in four years

3 - Maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average

2 - Study two hours for every hour spent in a classroom

1 - Make one leadership commitment

"It really stuck with me because of its simplicity," said Dale Whittaker, Purdue's vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs. "The primary area I think about within my responsibilities is that every student that comes here can get a degree in a field they want in a timely manner."

Whittaker said the goal is to have 50 percent of the Class of 2016 graduate in four years. Recent statistics show 42 percent of students graduate in four years. Whittaker said students who fulfill the four pillars of 4-3-2-1-Graduate! tend to perform better academically.

"We were trying to think of how we could increase four-year graduation numbers," said Purdue Student Government President Joe Rust. "This is going to be one of our tools used to increase that rate."

4-3-2-1-Graduate! was developed by the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Purdue biomedical engineering major Keith Hansen served as a student ambassador for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to help promote the need for student success and timely completion, which also plays into 4-3-2-1-Graduate!

Purdue Student Government has since adopted the initiative, further promoting its merits.

"What you're seeing now is a wholesale launch so that every student will understand it as a recipe for success," Whittaker said.

"It's your goal and the steps you have to take to reach that graduation date and to do it in four years," Rust added.

Through dozens of interviews, Rust is working to create a video that will inform students of programs and services available on campus.

"We want to show that not only are there programs and services on campus that will help them graduate in four years, but we also have so many committed staff, faculty and administrators that really want them to graduate in four years," Rust said. "They're here to help, and we want students to know they can go into their offices and ask for help in the areas that they work in."

Rust highlighted the various tutor, supplemental information and undergraduate studies programs as some of the many services available.

All aspects of 4-3-2-1-Graduate! build off one another, Rust said.

"Students who are more involved on campus tend to be more academically successful," he said. "Students who study more tend to have a higher GPA, and that's an indicator they are successful in the classroom. It all ties together to the idea of graduating in four years."

Promoting the need for students to make one leadership commitment goes past the idea of graduating in four years.

"We want these students in 10 or 15 years to be world changers," Whittaker said. "We only have four short years to build these skills, so this recipe is a simple way to articulate our expectations."

Purdue has approximately 1,000 student organizations, Rust noted. The goal of having each student making one leadership commitment does not necessarily entail holding a cabinet position within a group.

"We want students to come up with a leadership commitment, and maybe that's a commitment to yourself, a commitment to the campus or a commitment to academic success," Rust said.

Cameron Brown and Brett Westcott – better known as the Purdue Compliment Guys – exemplified this idea perfectly, Rust said. The students regularly stood on campus and offered compliments to people walking past.

"They were not involved with a position and not involved with a specific organization," he said. "But they had a leadership commitment to make the campus a happier place. They did what they thought was right and they did what they thought was best."

Writer: Brian Peloza, 765-494-2084, bpeloza@purdue.edu

Sources: Dale Whittaker, 765-494-0615, dwhittak@purdue.edu

Joe Rust, rust@purdue.edu