Summer in West Lafayette seems to get busier every year. The month of July brought the largest conference group ever to convene on campus. More than 6,600 teen-agers were part of the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, which spent a week with us. An exceptionally energetic group, they engaged in studies, cultural activities, social events, sports and entertainment.
The hosting of conference groups is not designed to recruit students to Purdue, but sometimes the contact with the University produces a happy byproduct. During the Triennium, Purdue administrators heard of one high school senior who planned to enroll at another institution in the fall. After a few days in West Lafayette, he called his parents to announce: "I've changed my mind -- I'm coming to Purdue!"
The Triennium was one of 114 conference groups on campus this summer. Their total attendance will be 25,678 people. Add to that the more than 10,000 students who are attending summer school sessions, and you can see that summer at Purdue is no vacation!
In recent days, I have been reading annual reports from each of the academic schools and other administrative units on the West Lafayette campus and from Purdue's regional campuses. The reports contain so much information and cover such a wide range of topics that it is impossible to do them justice in this letter, but I'd like to offer some impressions for you.
Although they are prepared independently by deans, vice presidents, and chancellors with very diverse responsibilities, together they provide a coherent account of the workings of the University system. The picture that emerges shows an institution that evolves constantly to meet the changing needs of many different constituencies. Academic curricula are reviewed and modified continually. New technologies are adopted; new skills are acquired; programs are begun and terminated.
Administrators struggle to recruit and retain the very best faculty in the face of strong competition. At the same time, they work to keep costs low and productivity high. Throughout the University, the Excellence 21 program is being utilized to bring about continuous improvement.
One of Purdue's great success stories in recent years is its strong enrollment position. While institutions throughout the country are dealing with declining student numbers, demand for Purdue academic programs remains high. I believe the quality of instruction, the high value of the Purdue degree, and the extraordinary treatment that potential students and their parents receive are reasons for this success.
Here are a few highlights from the annual reports:
The School of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Krannert Graduate School of Management, is launching a unique Master of Business Administration in Agribusiness program to meet the growing demand for managers with that specialized knowledge. Scheduled to begin classes in the fall of 1999, the new program will have a strong distance education component.
In the School of Consumer and Family Sciences, a new four-year honors program -- developed through Excellence 21 -- will be in place for the coming fall semester.
May graduates of the School of Education achieved a 98 percent pass rate in the National Teacher Exam.
Purdue's Schools of Engineering continue to be ranked among the top ten in the nation in annual U.S. News & World Report survey.
The School of Liberal Arts has begun an initiative to recruit outstanding undergraduates to form a "community of scholars."
More than 60 percent of the graduating seniors in the School of Management completed on-the-job internships during their undergraduate years.
The School of Pharmacy initiated an Excellence 21 project to evaluate its efforts to recruit and retain minority students, while the School of Nursing approved a senior year curriculum that will merge several clinical courses into a single seamless clinical experience.
The School of Science conducted a number of outreach programs that reached thousands of students in Indiana public schools.
Graduates of the School of Technology achieved a job-placement rate of 97 percent.
A new bachelor's program in veterinary technology has been approved in the School of Veterinary Medicine. The first class will enroll in the coming fall semester.
In the fall semester, Purdue Calumet will begin offering a Master of Business Administration degree to executives in the Northwest Indiana region.
With the help of a grant from GTE, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne is developing working partnerships with community schools with the goal of creating a seamless educational experience.
Purdue North Central has developed an off-campus learning center in Valparaiso, which will offer up to 28 courses each semester.
These anecdotal highlights are part of a much larger spectrum in a University that touches hundreds of thousand of lives and has an economic impact that is measured in the billions of dollars.
Although we are increasingly dependent on emerging technologies, the entire organization is energized by its people -- and that will never change.
During July, Purdue's Department of Food Science quietly moved into its new home, a $28 million facility that will have a huge effect on Indiana's economy. Purdue's research and education in this discipline are at the cutting edge, and the opportunities for partnerships with agriculture and business have staggering potential.