A Message From Jay

Dear Colleagues,

I hope your semester is off to a good start. I’ve been getting to know more of our faculty, staff, students and community members over recent weeks — and enjoying every minute of it. I was very pleased to start the month with a visit to the Greater Lafayette Diversity Roundtable, where I joined members of the community and Purdue’s cultural center directors in a lively discussion about how we can make Greater Lafayette more inclusive — a conversation made even more important given the recent racist events in our community. And soon, I’ll be hosting the Administrative and Professional Staff Recognition Luncheon, where we will honor employees who have been with Purdue for 10 to 45 years. It is a privilege to recognize these exceptional A/P staff members who have contributed so much to our University.

In my December message, I wrote about working together to redefine the 21st century land-grant university and I reiterated the four themes I put forward in my interview seminar: excellence and innovation; access and success; affordability; and a climate of inclusion and respect.

This month, I want to expand on excellence, one part of the first of these themes. There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Purdue’s reputation grows with every mile from the Wabash River.” My guess is that many of you, like me, have experienced this firsthand in your travels. We may be located in the heartland of America, but our reputation for excellence is known around the world. And that’s something we can all be proud of.

Of course, a “reputation for excellence” must be continuously earned and demonstrated through all we do. Our reputation is heightened when our brilliant faculty transform health care, discover more effective cancer drugs, identify the lasting impacts of a changing climate, uncover insights into our past from archaeological work in a remote part of the world, address food insecurity, launch innovative companies or make any of the hundreds of other discoveries that happen here annually. Our reputation for excellence is enhanced when our talented students become high-profile scholars in academe, take leadership positions in the private sector or serve in their local or national governments.

It is easy to equate excellence only with world-changing discoveries or accomplished alumni. But the drive to deliver at the highest levels is evident throughout any excellent organization. Every class period, every advising session, every contact with a parent or a prospective student, the condition of our campus facilities, every engagement program (I could go on) says something about who we are — good or bad. In my current role, I’ve had the chance to see excellence play out at virtually every level of the University and you have my thanks for making your personal contribution to our global reputation.

Part of building a culture of excellence is celebrating it. I hope you’ve been following the announcements of our 150th Anniversary Professors throughout the month. We created this new category of named professorships to shine a bright light on excellence in teaching and mentoring. Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Peter Hollenbeck and I have been surprising each of these faculty members (some might call it ambushing) with the news of their appointment, and it has been a real joy to recognize these deserving faculty members in front of their deans and peers with this high honor. There will be 10 such 150th Anniversary Professors for 2018 and we look forward to honoring more outstanding educators in the years ahead. If you have an opportunity, I hope you’ll thank these talented faculty members for their dedication to their students and to our teaching and learning mission at Purdue.

Excellence certainly carries into how we get things done on our campus. The Transform Purdue initiative is focused on streamlining, simplifying, organizing and automating our business processes and related systems. A tremendous amount of work has been done by many teams of very talented people — all focused on bringing us better, easier-to-use systems. You’ll find an update on their progress in this month’s newsletter. We anticipate that everyone at Purdue will be touched in some way by this wide-ranging initiative, so it’s important that you stay informed. 

As mentioned above, in my view, one of the foundations of excellence in a 21st century land-grant university is a climate of respect and inclusion. As in other areas, delivering excellence here is something that must be supported deliberately through actions and initiatives. One way we’re doing this is by identifying what areas are working and what areas need attention with respect to how we support the work of our faculty. In early February, Purdue will join some of our peer institutions in the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey of job satisfaction for faculty. Jessica Huber, interim associate provost for faculty affairs, is leading this effort, which is open to all tenure-track faculty, clinical faculty, research faculty and continuing lecturers. I really want to encourage all eligible faculty to participate — your voice will make a difference. Many worthwhile initiatives have been developed from data received through previous COACHE surveys (details in this month’s newsletter).  More broadly, plans are underway for a University-wide climate survey in 2019, so stay tuned for more on that front.

There is much to be proud of on our campus. And it is a privilege to work with so many of you who have helped us create a reputation that is so highly regarded far from the banks of the Wabash. However, even more exciting is the prospect of working with all of you as we move the standard of excellence at Purdue — in all we do — to even higher levels ....

I wish you all the best in the coming semester.

Jay

January 25, 2018

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