ENGAGED LEADERSHIP SPOTLIGHT
Celebrating nearly a decade of leadership by engaged faculty member and administrator Steve Abel.
On June 30, 2023, Steve Abel retired from his role as Associate Provost for Engagement after nearly a decade of service to Purdue engagement and 40 years of service to Purdue in the areas of student education, faculty leadership development, and mentorship.
Abel was named associate provost for engagement in 2016 after serving as associate vice president for engagement (2014-16) and associate vice provost for faculty affairs (2012-14). Abel previously held positions within the College of Pharmacy, including assistant/associate dean for clinical programs, head of the department of pharmacy practice, and the William S. Bucke Professor of Pharmacy Practice.
Expanding Purdue’s External Engagement & Recognition
Under Abel’s leadership the Office of Engagement grew to oversee regional offices of Purdue engagement throughout state, Purdue Extension, Purdue United Way, Purdue Conferences, the Purdue Center for Regional Development, lifelong learning, and signature STEM engagement initiatives.
With Abel’s support, Purdue engaged in hundreds of impactful partnerships throughout the region, the state, and beyond, with governmental bodies, municipalities, nonprofits and human services agencies, school corporations, small businesses, and more.
“Steve became Associate Provost for Engagement at Purdue not long after I became CEO of TechPoint,” said Mike Langellier, Operating Partner/Head of New Ventures for High Alpha. “I still remember our first meeting and his earnest desire to be helpful. He was a much-needed guide in navigating a large and complex organization, personally and directly pulling together Purdue (one of our state’s most important assets) with tech (one of our state’s most important industries).”
Under Abel’s direction, Purdue emerged as a national leader in university engagement. Purdue is the first university to have been competitively recognized with the Engagement Scholarship Consortium’s Ryan, Moser, Reilly Excellence in Community Engagement Institutional Leadership Award, which was awarded this fall. Purdue is one of a select number of universities to hold the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification and the Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Purdue is the only university to have won three APLU Innovation & Economic Prosperity awards, including the “best in show” Connections award.
Purdue University was among five colleges and universities chosen from 100 nominations to receive the Higher Education Civic Engagement Award presented by The Washington Center for leadership and innovation in engagement. Purdue has also received four W. K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and is on track to obtain the highest number of these awards to a single university. Most recently, the Office of Engagement’s Societal Impact Fellows program was ranked in the top ten for the Social Innovator of the Year award at the 2023 Social Innovation Summit.
Steve Abel has been a stellar leader for and contributor to the many groups that work to advance engagement scholarship, including the Engagement Scholarship Consortium and the Big Ten Academic Alliance. He is a kind and generous presence who exemplifies how to effectively bring together many voices and enact collaboration that makes meaningful change within and across universities and communities.
Developing Purdue’s Internal Capacity for Engagement
The number of Purdue faculty members promoted and/or tenured fully or partially on the scholarship of engagement increased exponentially in the past decade. From 2015-2022, 133 faculty were promoted fully or partially on the basis of engagement. The total for the prior period, 2010-2014, was 17.
A key driver of this increase was the development of The Guide by Abel and Assistant Provost for Engagement Rod Williams, published in 2019 to support faculty in developing promotion documents based on the scholarship of engagement. The Guide has not only been a resource for Purdue faculty but has been requested and utilized to advance the scholarship of engagement by individuals representing 106 universities worldwide.
Abel also worked to bring faculty development in engagement to the full Purdue system, incorporating Purdue Northwest, Purdue Fort Wayne, and Purdue Global into professional development programming and support.
The Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD), has grown with Abel’s support, building a substantial portfolio of engagement activities advancing the capacity-building, strategic planning and economic development activities of communities and regions across Indiana and beyond.
“With Steve’s support and leadership, PCRD has continued to soar contributing to Purdue’s engagement impact. He has definitely moved the needle, being a champion of innovative relationship building with communities and regions,” said Roberto Gallardo, who directs the Purdue Center for Regional Development and succeeds Abel as Vice President for Engagement.
Service-learning at Purdue has also grown under Abel’s leadership. Lindsey Payne, Purdue’s Director of Service-Learning said, “Steve has fostered growth and community in our service-learning programming. Not only do we have a rigorous and thriving fellows’ program, but we have expanded and enhanced our engagement scholarship. Under Steve’s leadership, service-learning has truly created impact for the greater good.”
An incredible 1,485 service-learning grants totaling $1,027,500 were administered toward the partnerships of 18,000 students working with more than 340 different community partners during his tenure. In 2014, Purdue published its inaugural issue of the Purdue Journal of Service-Learning and International Engagement. The journal provides undergraduate and graduate students who conduct projects with exemplary service-learning and community engagement an opportunity for scholarly publication, showcasing service-learning as a high-impact learning methodology. To date, 359 student authors have been published in 9 volumes that have been downloaded 41,000 times by readers worldwide.
Purdue was incredibly fortunate to have the most passionate and impactful leader in the country at the wheel of our engagement enterprise. Steve’s enthusiasm for all things engagement was truly infectious. He raised the visibility of and respect for engagement across the entire Purdue system and national award after national award signify that Purdue Engagement is in a league of its own.
A Legacy of Mentorship
Abel is also widely known and recognized as a mentor and role model. Sandra San Miguel, Associate Dean for Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine, and national Jefferson Award winner, recalls an impactful moment:
“I remember the first associate deans for engagement meeting that Steve led. He invited pharmacy students to the meeting, introduced them as new members joining the group, and shared their amazing backgrounds, talents, and career aspirations. They were instantly transformed into valued members of our team and not observers sitting in to see ‘what happens’ at leadership meetings. And even more important, it continued with every group of students. Steve leads by providing opportunities for everyone to truly be part of the process, to value our different perspectives, to connect and celebrate each other, and to be leaders. The positivity and support that he seasons every one of these adventures with is endless. I am deeply thankful to have Steve as a colleague and friend.”
Abel is a steadfast advocate for partnerships supporting Purdue engagement, education and discovery, and an innovator in the field. As his tenure comes to a close, he will be remembered by his colleagues for leading Purdue engagement and the Office of Engagement in fulfilling a vision to connect the university with communities and individuals in partnerships to make the world a more equitable, resilient and prosperous place for all, at home and across the globe.
Abel’s passion for every facet of engagement – from student education to faculty leadership development to mentorship, scholarship, economic development, relationship building, and community engagement – moved Purdue engagement forward to new heights.
The Office of Engagement wishes Steve all the best in his next chapter.