Purdue University gaining momentum, president says

February 23, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Improved student retention, higher national rankings, record research funding, and a broad portfolio of student and faculty achievements point to a Purdue University "on the move," said President France A. Córdova on Tuesday (Feb. 23) in her annual State of the University address.

Purdue University President France A. Córdova, during Tuesday's (Feb. 23) State of the University address, said Purdue has set new records in student retention and research funding. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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A singular focus on student success has made a difference, Córdova said, describing efforts to improve undergraduate teaching and support programs, such as Boiler Gold Rush, Signals and Hotseat, that contribute to improved learning. Student retention reached an all-time high, at 87 percent, for 2008-2009.

Making sure students are ready for Purdue helps ensure success, too, Córdova said. The current freshman class has the highest SAT scores in Purdue history.

"As retention rates improve, increased graduation rates will follow. Crossing the finish line is the first measure of student success. We want students to graduate in a timely fashion and with an education that can compete with any in the world," she said.

Financial aid for students increased. An anonymous $6 million gift has been applied to Emerging Urban Leaders, a new scholarship for students from Indianapolis, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. The Marquis Scholarship, also new, was created specifically for good students from middle-income households.

National and international rankings also improved. U.S.News & World Report ranked Purdue 22nd among the nation's public universities, a four-place increase from 2008, and 61st among all universities, a five-place increase from 2008. The Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings ranked Purdue 87th, a 12-place increase from 2008.

Faculty achievement earned international recognition. Chief among them was agronomy professor Gebisa Ejeta, who was awarded the World Food Prize - the Nobel Prize of Agriculture - for increasing sorghum yields, a food staple upon which millions of people depend for survival.

Sponsored research funding for Purdue was a record $342 million for fiscal year 2008-09. In September, Purdue announced the National Science Foundation had awarded $105 million to a Purdue-led team to spearhead a center that will serve as headquarters for the operations of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, or NEES. It is the largest in the university's history.

In economic development, Purdue Research Park added 11 new companies in the past year, for a total of 160.

Córdova named the new College of Health and Human Sciences and Global Policy Research Institute as critical initiatives for the future. The college will be established July 1, and the Global Policy Research Institute's inaugural director Arden Bement will start June 1. Bement, a Purdue professor of nuclear engineering, has been on leave while serving as director of the National Institute of Science and Technology and the National Science Foundation.

"Few policy institutes can make the vital connection between science and society," Córdova said. "Even fewer can do so on a global scale. Such connections are vital at a time when the rapid advances in science, engineering and technology have the power to change the world instantly."

Budget concerns precipitated by a cut in state appropriations, increases in health-care and energy costs, and plans to give salary increases also were addressed. University administrators estimate a potential shortfall of $70 million by 2013 and are working with 15 representative groups and committees to evaluate operations and programs and cut costs.

"No decisions about eliminating jobs or changing compensation or canceling programs have been made, and everything is on the table for review and consideration," Córdova said. "We remain steadfast in our determination to work through it together to maintain and even improve Purdue's economic health."

Córdova was appointed Purdue University's 11th president on July 16, 2007, as well as professor of physics and astronomy for the university. An internationally recognized astrophysicist, Córdova previously served as chancellor at the University of California-Riverside and as chief scientist for NASA.

Writer: Chris Sigurdson, (765) 496-2644, sig@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: A transcript of President Córdova's remarks is available online at http://www.purdue.edu/president/speeches/sotu2009text.html 

A streaming archive of the presentation is available here (Windows Media required).