Provost's Newsletter – January 2019

A Message from Jay

Provost Jay


As we wrap up the first month of our semester, the Indiana winter has certainly made its presence known ... stay safe and warm — at least we’re one month closer to spring!

Innovation is a term we hear often these days, in a wide variety of contexts. Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School (who was on campus last March) coined the terms “disruptive innovation” to characterize ideas that are ultimately so big they transform industries (think personal computers, digital photography, etc.), and “sustaining innovation” or improving on what we are doing now (think high-definition TV, features that make your smart phone more useful, etc.). In the end, hopefully innovations of either type lead to something better than we had before.

As a higher education institution, Purdue is called on to contribute both disruptive and sustaining innovations. Through their research, our brilliant scholars have discovered entirely new solutions, approaches and processes — new ways of detecting cancer, new approaches for addressing soil erosion/improving water quality, new forms of computing. While some Purdue innovations have literally global impacts, some are much closer to home as we continue to evolve as a University — developing better methods for educating our students, finding more effective ways to support our faculty and staff, creating more efficient operations while maintaining academic excellence.

Purdue’s IMPACT program is a great example of innovation at scale in pedagogy. IMPACT — Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation — now has 332 alumni faculty who have transformed 581 courses to make them more student-centered, creating more active and collaborative learning environments. To accomplish this, each IMPACT faculty member participated in 13 in-person sessions and completed plenty of homework. Thanks to their efforts, more than 90 percent of our undergraduate students will have taken an IMPACT course by the time they graduate. The IMPACT program was recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education in October in a special report featuring six institutions that are changing classroom culture through innovations in teaching. Of course, if we are committed to innovation, we should ask, “What’s next for IMPACT?” ... and we have.

Now, the IMPACT team, led by Chantal Levesque-Bristol, executive director of our Center for Instructional Excellence, is creating new IMPACT modules that can be explored by faculty on their own time, according to their own schedules. In February, 10 faculty members will begin piloting eight modules that focus on two topic areas: 1) identifying course goals and elements and 2) course level learning outcomes. Modules will include text, video testimonials, references, and mechanisms for reflection and participant feedback.

This summer, CIE will pilot 10 modules, which will include the first two topics plus three more: 1) evidence of learning, 2) select teaching and learning activities and 3) course structure. As with the traditional IMPACT process, faculty who sign up for the modular program will have support from staff members. Applying what is learned from the pilot programs, content, style and structure will be standardized until, ultimately, faculty can choose to participate in IMPACT in-person, online or through a combination of both.

We hope this added flexibility will support a greater number of faculty who wish to participate in IMPACT. This modular approach also helps us reach faculty who are not on the West Lafayette campus. Our goal is to make IMPACT available to all Purdue instructors at any Purdue campus, including those connected to Purdue Global, Purdue Northwest, Purdue Fort Wayne and all statewide sites. All of this is a great example of a “sustaining innovation”: making the IMPACT program better, more accessible, and expanding the positive effects of IMPACT to Purdue faculty ­— and students — everywhere.

Of course, innovation is not limited to the lab or classroom. With the 2018 COACHE survey results in hand, we are looking for innovative ideas to help us more fully support faculty success. What programs and initiatives will help our faculty become even more satisfied, engaged, and productive? What current faculty development and support programs are working and should be expanded? Are there gaps indicating where we can be better? These are the questions we’re asking today, and you will have several opportunities throughout the spring to help us think about the answers — please engage in this important conversation.

Innovation happens in hundreds of ways every day at this remarkable institution as Purdue’s faculty and staff work to make things better today than they were yesterday. I believe this is the hallmark of a dynamic, successful University, but it doesn’t happen automatically — creativity and innovation (whether disruptive or sustaining) is something we must be deliberate about. I hope you’ll accept my thanks in advance for your role in making us better tomorrow than we are today ...

All the best,


January 2019

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