A Message from Jay

Dear Colleagues,

I recently spent time with some of our outstanding students at the Mortar Board Leadership Conference and at the BUILD Dinner sponsored by the Purdue Foundation Student Board. I was impressed by their insightful questions and enlightened perspectives, a regular occurrence when I interact with our students. These and other recent student interactions helped me decide to write this month about another pillar of the 21st century land-grant university: student success. We can be proud of — and grateful for — the many people and programs dedicated to helping our students reach their full potential.

One of our student success programs has reached an impressive milestone. In February, the Krannert School of Management celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program. When it was formed in 1968, the BOP was one of the few student success programs supporting diversity and inclusion at a major business school. Dr. Bell dedicated his 37-year career at Purdue to helping students gain access to a world-class management education. The program’s success is evident in the 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students it has helped through the years and its 100 percent job placement rate. The late Dr. Bell was a pioneer, mentor and friend to the students who carry on his legacy through their successful and productive lives.

Many other programs and initiatives — Boiler Gold Rush, IMPACT, Summer Start, the Academic Success Center, Horizons, Purdue Promise, Learning Communities, and many, many more — are designed to support our students, enrich their Purdue experience and ultimately enhance their lives.

Thanks to these well-designed programs and the outstanding teaching and mentoring of our faculty and staff, two metrics for student success have improved over the past decade. Our undergraduate students’ one-year retention rates have increased from 86.5 percent in 2007 to 91.6 percent in 2016. Similarly, four-year graduation rates have increased from 40 percent for the 2004 incoming class to 59 percent for the 2013 incoming class.

Compared with where we were 10 years ago, we are indeed doing much better. However, more recently, progress on these two metrics has slowed and we are still not where we want to be relative to our Big Ten peers. We need to explore ways to improve, to look for and address remaining barriers to student success, and to fill any gaps in our current student success programming.

Retention and graduation are only two measures of student success. In addition to mastering their disciplines, our students need to build their "soft" or "professional" skills. Students grow from participation in study abroad programs, undergraduate research, co-op opportunities and internships. They develop critically important skills from engagement in student organizations and leadership programs. If we are to redefine the land-grant university of the future, we need to examine all aspects of the Purdue undergraduate educational experience.

We recently launched the Boiler Success Team to facilitate this process. The Boiler Success Team is designed to bring together and focus the good energy and creative thinking across campus toward student success. Through a series of campus conversations, a network of faculty, staff and students will help us identify and prioritize projects to advance our students’ Purdue lives. All are invited to contribute to the Boiler Success Team, and we will look for your input at the Boiler Success website.

Better preparing students for the future was also a motivating factor behind the Integrated Data Science Initiative we announced last fall. A big thank you to the nearly 200 faculty and staff members who participated in the fall workshop/faculty working groups. We heard loud and clear that undergraduate education initiatives should be integrative and inclusive across disciplines. With help from these groups, we were also able to identify many exciting programs and ideas related to data science that already exist or are percolating around campus.

Our next steps here will focus on 1) supporting cross-college curricular and program development via a Provost’s Office Request for Proposals you can expect to see in March, 2) growing the data science-related living learning communities ultimately to residence hall scale, and 3) defining what data literacy/fluency outcomes might be relevant to all of our students. A data science steering committee with representation from all colleges has been formed to guide this work. You’ll hear more from this committee and more about the Integrated Data Science Initiative research plans soon.

There is more coming up: Later this spring, in concert with our outstanding faculty in the Teaching Academy, Senior Vice Provost Frank Dooley and I will launch a series of campus-wide discussions about teaching and learning excellence. We want to explore and better define how the Office of the Provost can support undergraduate education.

I could go on — we have so many extraordinary students and so much to be proud of with our undergraduate program at Purdue. That said, as we look ahead, we have a great opportunity and an important responsibility to refine and evolve the undergraduate experience, ensuring that Purdue continues to be synonymous with educational excellence. I look forward to working with you to make that happen, and to making Purdue the international exemplar of the 21st century land-grant university.

All the best,


March 1, 2018

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