sealPurdue Letter from the President

February, 1999

Purdue is a vast and complex enterprise engaged in thousands of programs centered around its three primary missions of teaching, research, and public service. It is a tremendous challenge to maintain the quality of all these initiatives and to set priorities.

Right now, we are carrying out an exercise that provides a great opportunity for a compass check. Every ten years, the University goes through an accreditation review under the auspices of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCA). The process has been under way since September, 1998, when Purdue began conducting a self-study, the first step toward reaccreditation. The self-study is an exhaustive year-long process involving faculty and administrators in every area of the institution. We will examine virtually everything the University does, and we will assess the value and purpose of the activity, whether we are meeting our goals, and whether we are performing efficiently. We also must look at whether any new initiatives are needed.

The internal group working on accreditation consists of a steering committee, a study committee, and five focused committees, each responsible for one of the NCA's criteria for accreditation. These criteria are:

  • The institution has clear and publicly stated purposes consistent with its mission and appropriate to an institution of higher education.

  • The institution has effectively organized the human, financial, and physical resources necessary to accomplish its purposes.

  • The institution is accomplishing its educational and other purposes.

  • The institution can continue to accomplish it purposes and strengthen its educational effectiveness.

  • The institution demonstrates integrity in its practices and relationships.

After completing the self-study, Purdue will submit it to an accreditation review team, appointed by the NCA. The team will visit the West Lafayette campus next November and announce Purdue's status in the spring of 2000.

While I have no doubt that Purdue will be reaccredited, our goal is to receive full accreditation with no qualifications or follow-up action needed. Having chaired two review teams in recent years, I know from experience that this will be a tough challenge. However, I like to view this process not as an obstacle to overcome, but as an opportunity to assess all our strengths and weaknesses. By taking a hard look at ourselves and by submitting to review by a well-prepared group of colleagues from other institutions, we can make Purdue a better university, and that's something we all strive to do.

Each year the National Science Foundation recognizes promising young professors with the Faculty Early Career Development Awards. These awards single out scholars whose early work indicates they may become leaders in their respective disciplines. The 1998 awards, announced in February, included nine members of the Purdue faculty -- the second-highest total granted to any institution. The Purdue honorees are:

Carla Brodley, computer and electrical engineering; Alan Friedman, biological sciences; Miriam Hasson, biological sciences; Sabre Kais, chemistry; Jochen Lauterbach, chemical engineering; Patricia LiWang; chemistry; Jens Palsberg, computer science; Michael Raftery, chemistry; and Bin Yao, mechanical engineering.

Another significant honor came to a veteran Purdue faculty member. Michael Ladisch, professor of food science and agricultural and biological engineering, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in recognition of a distinguished career in teaching a research.

Finally, I can't resist saying a few words about the Purdue women's basketball team, which as I write this has just finished winning the Big Ten Conference tournament and will enter the NCAA tournament ranked as the No. 1 team in the country. Coach Carolyn Peck's team is enjoying a season that Boilermaker fans will remember for a long time.

Led by seniors Ukari Figgs and Stephanie White-McCarty -- both of whom are outstanding students as well as great athletes -- the team has thrilled Mackey Arena crowds throughout the season. They make us all proud.

Steven C. Beering