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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - October 2019

By Mary Jane Chew

A Message from Jay

Dear Colleagues,

Ever since our Boilermaker astronauts helped us close out our sesquicentennial celebration during a terrific (and victorious!) Homecoming weekend, I’ve been thinking about all the events we packed into the past year.

Our 150th anniversary campaign did an extraordinary job honoring the Giant Leaps of Boilermakers past, while also looking toward the future. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the co-chairs of the Ideas Festival: Christine Ladisch, professor of public health and dean emerita of the College of Health and Human Sciences, and Mark Lundstrom, the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as the team they led. The eclectic roster of speakers — from Sully Sullenberger to Steve Wozniak to Condoleezza Rice — and all the conferences, symposia and other events we hosted literally guaranteed there was something for everyone. In the end, the Ideas Festival inspired us and challenged us to think more broadly and deeply about so many topics and issues — something we simply must continue in some form.

Kudos as well to Dan Hasler, executive vice president for communication; Ethan Braden, vice president of marketing; and Julie Rosa, assistant vice president – strategic communications; and their teams for developing and delivering the ubiquitous 150 Years of Giant Leaps campaign. In my 37 years at Purdue, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a proud and consistent message carried out so well in so many places — even in the nation’s best corn maze and the helmets/uniforms of our football team!

During the year our deans shared their forecasts of the future in Purdue Today’s series, “What will the next 150 years bring?” I appreciated their thoughtful responses, and noted the common theme calling for greater collaboration across disciplines.

Marion Underwood, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, wrote: “Academic units and programs of study will become more interdisciplinary as we collaborate with bioengineers and geneticists and data scientists in our quest to make lives better.” Similarly, Patrick Wolfe, dean of the College of Science, wrote: “The complexity and scope of the challenges facing modern science will require collaboration that brings more people to the table.” And Karen Plaut, dean of Purdue Agriculture, wrote: “We will engage and inspire faculty, staff and students across the University to converge across disciplines to address basic and applied problems.” I could go on with similar quotes from our other deans, but you get the idea … and I could not agree more.

So many of our faculty, staff and students are already working and studying across disciplines, departments, colleges. You are creating new paths of study that bring together areas in novel ways — to add breadth and depth to our students’ education — Cornerstone and the new Applied Data Science Certificate are just two examples.  And, based on conversations with many of you, I believe more such cross-cutting educational opportunities are in our future. Of course, so much of our research agenda already demands that we bring together science and the arts from across the campus — indeed, this is the fundamental premise of Discovery Park and the Big Idea Challenge.

When I look beyond the decade — to the next 150 years — we will build on these successful models of collaboration and do even more. As we go forward, collaboration at Purdue will mean not only crossing academic disciplines, but also blurring the lines between the academic, residential and co-curricular experiences of our students. This holistic approach is one of the central themes of the Road Map for Transformative Undergraduate Education, our guide to ensuring that our undergraduates in 2030 — and beyond — will continue to experience the high-impact education they’ve come to expect from Purdue.

Of course, none of us knows for sure what the future will bring. That said, working together, we can ensure that Purdue will continue to provide life-changing educational opportunities, develop solutions to our world’s most pressing problems, and engage our many populations in ways that make a positive difference. 

I hope you feel some personal sense of pride for your role in making our first 150 years so successful and impactful — and, as we begin our journey toward the next 150 years, please accept my thanks for all you will do to ensure we continue to make giant leaps, in every sense of the phrase….

All the best, 


P.S. — Just a note of thanks to all of you who contributed in some way to our Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Review. As you know, the HLC review team was on campus last Monday and Tuesday. They were very positive about their interactions with our administrators, faculty, staff and students. A special thanks to members of the IDA+A team for all the behind-the-scenes work you did to help us prepare for and host the HLC review team. While it will be several months before we hear the results, the visit went very well and again, you have my thanks for any role you played in that success.

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