Provost's Newsletter – August 2018

A Message from Jay

Provost Jay

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the 2018 fall semester! It seems like everywhere we turn, Purdue faculty, staff and students are breaking old records and reaching new milestones — this is truly an exciting time to be a Boilermaker. I thought I’d use this column to fill you in on what’s been happening around campus and to let you know what you can expect in the coming months.

Last year, I talked about four themes that, for me, are the essential foundation for a successful 21st century land-grant institution: Excellence and Innovation; Access and Success; Affordability; and a Climate of Respect and Inclusion. With your help we’ve made progress in all areas, and we will continue our focus on these themes as we fulfill our tripartite mission of learning, discovery and engagement.

We’re already off to a great start this year. Here are just a few examples …

Purdue is meeting the challenges of today’s data-driven world head-on through our Integrative Data Science Initiative. By tightly coupling data science theory, discovery, and applications throughout campus, we intend to be at the forefront of data science-enabled research and education. We funded seed grants in a number of research areas, and these grants are helping faculty from across campus put data science to work in areas such as health care, machine learning, chemical sensing, and forecasting legislative outcomes.

On the education side, we are helping our students attain data fluency, regardless of their career paths, as they prepare for a world where data is being used in rapidly expanding levels and ways. This fall we launched The Data Mine, a living learning community in Hillenbrand Hall that connects data science to disciplinary areas on campus via real-world research and project work. A data science education ecosystem is emerging across campus through our seed grant program, which funded nine projects including 37 faculty from 22 departments in 10 colleges. We believe the critical steps we’re taking in data science will help our students become leaders in their work lives and ensure that Purdue sets the standard for excellence and innovation in an arena that grows larger and more important every year. 

The word is certainly getting around about the excellence and affordability of Purdue’s undergraduate program. This fall we are welcoming the largest incoming class, with the largest number of underrepresented minorities in our history. We’re also welcoming the largest number of Indiana resident students in a decade. At a time when some universities are seeing enrollment declines, this increased interest in Purdue is especially significant. That said, I fully understand that greater student numbers mean we have to take action to provide the quality of experience they are seeking. To that end, we made investments in more TAs, visiting faculty, advisors, CAPS counselors, CCO staff, and other student support staff to help accommodate the increase. Two new residence halls will come on line in 2020, as will the new STEM Teaching Lab Building. We will be making additional investments going forward to make sure we deliver the quality of undergraduate experience our students seek at Purdue. And I am deeply grateful for the positive spirit and ongoing collaboration that I’ve seen firsthand between members of our faculty and staff in Enrollment Management, Student Life, Registrar’s Office, Academic Advising, Teaching and Learning, Student Success, and Physical Facilities to accommodate our surge in enrollment.

As you know, we’re also celebrating a milestone that has been 150 years in the making: Purdue’s sesquicentennial. 150 Years of Giant Leaps pays homage to our past and provides a “launch pad” for a very bright future.

In addition to the four key themes of the Ideas Festival, which you no doubt recognize from previous communication and the prominent banners and displays around campus, the Ideas Festival co-chairs saw the need for a cross-cutting committee to plan events that will explore the convergence of these four global megatrends. This cross-cutting committee, led by Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park, will explore how disciplines coalesce as we plan for the next 150 years, with a special focus on their economic, legal and social implications of that convergence.

Many of Purdue’s giant leaps over time have been in research. I hope you saw the announcement about our sponsored research program awards setting a new record for the 2018 fiscal year at $454.5 million, an increase of $36 million over the previous year. Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships and Purdue's Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said it best: "This is a testament to the work of our talented researchers and to the advanced facilities found at Purdue." I couldn’t agree more and I look forward to continuing to partner with Suresh as we support our extraordinary researchers in the coming year.

In terms of other milestones we are celebrating, 2018 marks 40 years since the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research (PCCR) became a National Cancer Institute-designated basic science cancer center — making it one of only seven in the United States with this designation. Congratulations to Tim Ratliff, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Pathobiology and the Robert Wallace Miller Director of PCCR, and the hundreds of faculty and staff who have generated groundbreaking, life-changing research addressing this insidious health issue through these four decades.

2019 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Cultural Center. The center was approved by our Board of Trustees on June 6, 1969, and it has been consistently recognized as one of the top cultural centers in the United States. Congratulations to BCC Director Renee Thomas and her team for their leadership and support of this important campus resource where faculty, staff, and students can learn about the African-American experience through educational programs and cultural activities.

Creating a climate of respect and inclusion for every member of our Purdue community is and will continue to be a priority for this campus. So many areas — our cultural centers, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, the Diversity Resource Office, the Office of International Students and Scholars — all play an important role in building a more inclusive Purdue. I am pleased to tell you that we are well into the search process for a vice provost for diversity and inclusion to help lead these efforts. I will very much appreciate your participation and feedback when candidates come to campus for public presentations and interviews.

I know you will all help me welcome our four new deans to their first full academic year at Purdue — some are here for the first time and some know Purdue, and many of you, very well: Nancy Marchand-Martella, dean of the College of Education; Linda Mason, dean of the Graduate School; Karen Plaut, dean of the College of Agriculture; and Marion Underwood, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. Transitions are an exciting time as these talented deans bring new perspectives to their new positions. 

I also want to welcome the new University Senate chair, Natalie Carroll, professor in the departments of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication, and Agricultural and Biological Engineering. I look forward to working with Professor Carroll — I have known her for many years and she brings an inclusive and results-oriented leadership style to her role.

There is more I could lift up: a record year for development with donors investing more than $450 million in our university for the year ended June 30; a record number of graduate students enrolled this fall (~9,800); continued progress on the $1 billion-plus Discovery Park District; more than 500 student-athletes who last semester had a cumulative GPA of 3.08. ... We have many reasons to be proud of Purdue — and I have just touched on a few of them in this column. All of you have contributed in one way or another to our extraordinary history and, on behalf of everyone who has come and gone from Purdue, I thank you. As we honor our past and turn our attention to the future, I know that even greater achievements lie ahead. I look forward to working together with you as we commit to another year of academic success.

All the best,


August 2018

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