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Fall Convocation Address to Faculty & Staff

Howard Cohen
Purdue University Calumet Convocation
August 20, 2002

It is my great pleasure to be addressing you at the beginning of my second year as chancellor. I am full of optimism for Purdue Calumet.

2001-2002 was a year of significant progress in our effort to "reach the next level"

    We are well on the way toward:
  • Fulfilling our commitment to student success.
  • Becoming a university preferred for its quality programs (not just its convenience).
  • Being recognized as a significant player in the economic development of NWI.

Our progress is the result of hard work. The environment has not been conducive to easy success. The events of last Sept 11 and their impact on the nation touched us all.

Our country seemed, first, more vulnerable than we thought, but, ultimately, more resolved than we might have imagined preserving and defending our core values of democracy, liberty, patriotic citizenship and tolerance of difference.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we stopped doing business as usual, but we also found the strength to do business with a purpose.

In that light, I want to invite all of you to join campus governance groups at 9 a.m. at the Memorial Wall in the Student Faculty Library Center to remove the stars and then plant a tree in remembrance of those who died in the terrorist attacks. At noon there will be a retrospective on terrorism in the lounge – led by faculty members Richard Rupp and Val Martinez.

For me, the experience of Sept. 11 – the horrendous acts of terror, the loss of life, the heroism of the rescue efforts, the outpouring of support for those who suffered losses, the national resolve to defend our values – reinforces the importance of Purdue Calumet’s mission and strategic plan.

The future of America will be built on education – preparing students for college and graduating them – unleashing the potential of our citizenry to build meaningful lives, do meaningful work and improve the quality of our social and physical environment.

We are also coming through a recession, but the recovery is slow and painful. Indiana, like virtually every other state in America, has discovered that the recession has severely reduced projected revenues. Given budget commitments that the state had already made for 2001-2003, we were looking at a $1.3 billion shortfall going into 03-05.

Through a combination of spending reductions, tax restructuring, and tax increases – I believe the term of art is “revenue enhancements” – the state addressed some of the problem.

Purdue Calumet, however, has lost dollars that had been allocated to us: almost $5 million. We are unlikely to regain them in the next biennial budget.

Moreover, the state is not “out of the woods” financially. The new revenues are still weak, and they will not cover all of the old commitments. The slower the recovery, the greater the likelihood that we will lose additional dollars here at Purdue Calumet.

Nevertheless, through careful fiscal management, Purdue Calumet met its core responsibilities in 2001-02. We expect to do so again in 02-03.

We will stay on course with our strategic plan. It may take us longer to accomplish all of our goals, but we are not changing direction or grinding to a halt. We made good progress last year.

  • Our strategic plan was adopted by the Board of Trustees in November.
  • We have allocated four new faculty positions to meet student demand in Management and ISCP (Information Systems and Computer Programming).
  • We have added $50,000 to student wage accounts across campus.
  • We initiated new scholarship endowments
    • It is our intention to raise $1.5 million each for the Chancellor's Scholars Award and the Community Service Scholarship Program. The Chancellor's Gala in June raised about $70,000 to start the Scholars' endowment.
    • We also established four endowments - Salute Children of Veterans; John Friend; Loraine Kirkley Memorial; and James Yackel - with contributions to those endowments of about $95,000.
  • Despite a bad year in the stock market, our scholarship budget for 2002-03 increased over 01-02 by $12,000. We are offering $662,000 in scholarships this year.
  • We established a full-blown, new student orientation program to be launched later this week. Our goal is to offer it to all incoming students next year.
  • A task force planning the Student Success Network is hard at work and will have a report for us to review this fall.

Campus-wide involvement in the strategic implementation process is very important for our success. In September, after classes are underway, we will be surveying faculty and staff in order to develop a better sense of the extent to which the strategic plan is understood and supported. I encourage your participation in that survey. Your honest appraisal will help us plan our next steps.

In addition to our strategic initiatives, we completed a major milestone in our AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Project) accreditation process approval of our special projects. We are continuously accredited as long as we remain in the AQIP project and continue to make progress on our goals.

We also inaugurated the "Building Community through the Arts" program with drama and music celebrating Black and Hispanic heritages. This fall, we will have a similar program with a Polish theme. The goal of this program is to extend our relationship to individuals and groups in our region, to create community support and to extend our student recruitment base.

In another new effort, Dean (School of Nursing) Peggy Gerard and Paul McGuinness (Admissions & Recruitment) are chairing a task force to revamp of our enrollment management process in order to gain an additional measure of control over the recruitment and admission of our students. This work will be a critical foundation for our future growth.

I am anticipating an exciting year ahead.

We have done much of the groundwork on student housing for the campus. The biggest remaining hurdle is financing, and we are working to put together a financial plan for design and construction.

In accordance with our strategic commitment to regional development, we are planning two projects that will consolidate our presence in the south part of Lake County.

First, the Purdue Northwest Indiana Technology Park is a joint venture with PRF (Purdue Research Foundation), the Purdue Office of Engagement, and Congressman Visclosky to establish a technology incubator on I-65 and 93rd Avenue in Merrillville. Purdue Calumet is a full partner in the development of this project, based on the Purdue West Lafayette Research Park model, and we are slated to assume responsibility for it after three years of operation.

Second, we are planning to consolidate and expand our presence in south Lake County with a Learning Center, also on the PRF property in Merrillville. If we are successful, we will construct a classroom building capable of eventually serving 2,000 students, compared to our current 650, in first and second year courses. We will not offer major programs on the site, but rather use it as a feeder to the Hammond campus. Here, too, funding will be critical, and we will seek private funds to help with the cost.

We know that our strategic plan will require extensive funding to be successful. Student fees are one source, but they cannot be the only source. In the future, we will need additional state funds for some of the elements. Although those funds are not likely to be forthcoming in 2003-05, we won't stop asking. For now, however, we need to concentrate on "Plan B".

We will kick off our Comprehensive Campaign this fall, an ambitious effort to raise about $11 million in private funds. In addition to support for the Learning Center, we are seeking funds for such projects as the Chancellor's Scholars Endowment; the Community Service Endowment; upgrades in lab space for Construction Technology, ISCP and HTM (Hospitality and Tourism Management), and a Center for Advanced Analysis. Each of these projects will help further our strategic goals.

We will also help fund our strategic plan through reallocation. I have asked the Vice Chancellors to identify $2.5 million in our current budget that we will reallocate for strategic initiatives. This challenge is especially daunting because we agreed that we would set aside the instructional budget without cuts. Billable credit hours are our major revenue source, and it would be self-defeating to cut the dollars that generate those hours.

The Vice Chancellors have developed a draft plan, and we will be sharing it with the campus for review and revision over the next few months. Finding $2.5 million to cut is no walk in the park. We will all be challenged to decide what we will no longer do in order to have funds for the new things called for in our strategic plan.

The changes in the offing at Purdue Calumet will be noticeable and real. The adjustments may not be easy for everyone. In the end, though, if we are committed to student success, we will need to reallocate our resources into those activities and programs that have the best chance of helping our students succeed.

Student fees, state funds, private dollars, reallocation. We will look in every direction to support our plans and goals.

We have asked Indiana to invest in education. This will be necessary if we are to "get ahead" and not merely "get by." We need to ask as much of ourselves.

I hope you will undertake our plans and goals with enthusiasm - and remain open to the satisfaction that comes from working in a place that transforms lives and unleashes incredible human potential for the benefit of all of us who live and work in northwest Indiana.

We in higher education are very fortunate to work at something that is more than a job. Students know that we hold the key to their futures in our hands. The community knows that we are a powerful agent for building a better future.

Education is, perhaps the most critical element for the transformation of our region from industrial age manufacturing to technology and knowledge-based business.

We have a lot of responsibility - but we also have the satisfaction that goes with using it constructively.

What can you do this year to live your commitment to our university's success?

Be a citizen!

Be a citizen of Purdue Calumet.

Citizenship is something of a lost concept in our society.

The role of the citizen, it seems, has been reduced to voting and paying taxes - both of which are thought of more as burdens than cherished rights.

In earlier times, citizenship meant participation in shaping the future directions of society.

It also meant feeling a very strong sense of belonging to a group and understanding your shared interest with others in the group.

I hope that every faculty member and every staff member feels a part of Purdue Calumet.

I hope you see your work - whether it is teaching a course, sending students their bills, cataloging books, recording grades on transcripts, maintaining the grounds, giving advice, networking a computer or setting up a chemistry lab - as part of a whole system that supports student learning.

Not one of us can do our job successfully unless most of the others on campus are being successful employees as well.

Each employee has a level of expertise that is required for the successful conduct of our business.

The faculty have the core knowledge that makes our work possible and worthwhile. But all of us have a role in effectively transforming that knowledge into learning. That is our shared interest. That is our commitment to student success.

To be effective citizens, we need to be involved. That means more than doing our jobs. It means taking an interest in department affairs, in our governance associations, in university business.

There are plenty of opportunities to participate - we have more than enough committees to go around - and I hope each of us will find a way to contribute.

Effective citizens also take the university perspective. Each of us comes to our work with our personal perspectives. We are mothers or husbands or partners; we are readers or gardeners or boaters; we are church members or club members or service organization members; we are Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians; we are any of these things or many of these things and many other things as well. These perspectives color our thinking and shape our interests.

When we let these interests guide our decisions about Purdue Calumet, we are not being university citizens. The librarians are not supposed to order only the books they enjoy reading, the computing staff must service equipment they may not personally care to own, the faculty must teach all the courses they are responsible for in a curriculum of study, not just the courses they are excited about at the moment. These decisions should be made on the basis of the university's need to offer learning and services in support of learning.

Each of us, as a university employee also has an interest in the university's effectiveness.

To the extent that we can set aside our various individual personal interests and concentrate on our interests in relation to Purdue Calumet - in its effectiveness as a university - we begin to define an interest in common. All of us, I hope, have an interest in the university's success as part of our individual interest sets; that is, the interest we try to create on behalf of our students.

We will do this well if we have everyone who works here, trying to figure out what that common interest is.

We know from our strategic plan, that our citizenship is grounded in three key ideas:

  • Student success
  • University of preference
  • Player in regional economic development

How we implement these ideas is yet to be determined, and we will do it best if each employee is trying to figure it out from the university perspective.

That is our job for the coming year. We must implement our strategic plan, and that will require our working out the specifics. The more of us who are involved in that process, the more likely we will get it right.

I am excited to move this process along so we can begin to see some results. I hope this excites each of you as well. If we all work together on this, we will have the insight and the energy to bring the strategic plan to life. We will make it real for our students, and they will respond by being engaged and being successful.

Thank you.
I am looking forward to working with each of you this year on behalf of Purdue Calumet and our students.

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