sealPurdue Letter From The President

July, 1997

Purdue's primary mission is -- and always has been -- to educate young people for productive careers and fulfilling lives. But throughout its history, the University has sought to harness its power to serve as a social and economic resource. Faculty and staff members work constantly to forge new relationships that will allow greater numbers of people to benefit from the work done here.

Two of those initiatives led to the awarding of significant grants to Purdue in July. The Lilly Endowment has made a cash gift of $5 million for the University to develop programs designed to enhance student retention, and Intel Corporation has given $6.2 million in equipment and service in order for our faculty and students to develop new applications for high-performance computers in the areas of multimedia, networking, scientific computing, distance-based learning, supercomputing clusters, and academic computing.

Purdue already has outstanding student retention and success rates. About 73 percent of students at the West Lafayette campus receive bachelor's degrees within six years, the highest rate of any state-related campus in Indiana. However, we can and will do better, with the help of the Lilly grant. Some of the initiatives to be implemented with the funding are:

Student retention is an issue that differs among institutions and on every campus. At Purdue West Lafayette and Indiana University's Bloomington campus, the majority of undergraduates are full-time students in the 18-22-year-old age range. Most of them arrive at the university with a commitment to receive a degree in four or five years. At the community-based campuses, such as Purdue Calumet or Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, the majority of students are working adults, who attend classes part-time. They juggle careers, family responsibilities, and classes, and sometimes are more interested in taking specific classes than in earning a degree. Obviously, they progress more slowly and uncertainly than the more traditional students, and direct comparisons between the groups can be deceiving.

With the help of the Lilly Endowment's funding, we hope to address all these situations, and we expect to achieve at least a five percent increase in degree completion on every Purdue campus over the five-year period of the grant. By the year 2010, the grant may result in up to 4,000 new Purdue baccalaureate graduates.

Purdue's proposal to Lilly, developed under the leadership of Executive Vice President Bob Ringel and Registrar Marlesa Roney, is designed not only to improve retention and increase graduation rates, but to enhance the entire academic and social experience for our students.

Intel's grant of $6.2 million in new equipment and service is a significant step by one of the world's most important computer manufacturers. Intel is making similar commitments to Purdue and other leading universities with the expectation that the firm will gain important knowledge about the real-world uses of its equyipment by our students, professors, and staff. More than one hundred faculty members from six of Purdue's schools will be involved in twenty-seven different projects that will push the limits of the computers' capabilities.

Innovative teaching methods, system networking, distance education delivery, and research in fields ranging from biotechnology to advanced manufacturing are just some of the uses to which the computers will be put.

At first glance, the grants from Lilly and Intel might seem unrelated. However, both will improve the educational infrastructure at Purdue, and both will produce benefits that reverberate from the University to the larger society and the economy. Significant gains in student success, leading to larger numbers of people with college degrees, will have significant social and economic effects for the state and nation. Continued progress in the use of high technology will improve Purdue's ability to educate students, perform research, and deliver services.

Steven C. Beering