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Chancellor Cohen Photo

Fall Convocation Address to Faculty & Staff

Howard Cohen
Purdue University Calumet Convocation
August 25, 2004

Purdue Calumet soon will move into the fourth year of implementation of our strategic plan.

We are committed to:

  • Improving student retention and graduation rates,
  • Becoming preferred for the quality of our programs, and
  • Putting the university at the service of economic development in NWI

By making these commitments we have taken a leadership role in Northwest Indiana, forging a future that addresses the hopes and dreams of our region.

How are we doing? What did we accomplish in 2003-2004?

I believe we have set a strong foundation for the future.

Over the past year, we have put in place the infrastructure that will help us make our vision a reality.

Enrollment management:

  • Our future success depends on steady enrollment growth to 10,500 students.
  • We have the organizational and physical capacity to accommodate that number, and enrollment represents our major significant source of new funds in the foreseeable future.
  • While we are not yet growing at our planned rate, there are some hopeful signs:
    • We are bringing 0-credit course enrollments down to a more healthy level. (We have cut the number of credits in remedial instruction in half over the past three years.) This should help improve both academic quality and student retention.
    • Supplemental instruction retention numbers initially have been very positive
    • The initial reception of the "Best and Brightest" Scholarship has been very strong.
    • We have added five advisor/recruiter positions to help academic departments recruit and retain their students.


More than half of our enrollment growth is projected to come from retention. Toward that end we have implemented three key programs: New Student Orientation, Freshman Seminars, and Supplemental Instruction. All of these were fully implemented during 2003-04.

Over the past year we reoriented University Division and hired Assistant Vice Chancellor Ron Kovach to help us address our retention rates. The partnership and cooperation between Academic Affairs and Student Services has been essential for our progress.


This has been an unprecedented year for starting new construction projects.

Student Housing - will transform us into a full service regional university. Help us create a campus life and expand our capacity to recruit international students.

Parking garage - will ultimately solve our parking problems, which would only grow worse with our planned growth. This project has been somewhat disruptive for all of us, and I appreciate your forbearance.

Purdue NWI Technology Center - This Purdue Research Foundation project, developed through federal funds secured by (NW Indiana) Congressman Visclosky, has captured the imagination of our community as a significant mechanism for helping transform Northwest Indiana from a manufacturing to a more diversified, technology-based economy.

Academic Learning Center - This building will consolidate our off-campus instruction and create capacity to grow enrollments in that part of Lake County where population is increasing.

The Technology Center is scheduled to open this December. Student Housing, the Parking Garage and the Academic Learning Center are all scheduled to open in Fall 2005.

None of these projects is being constructed through state capital appropriations. We are taking the initiative to realize our potential and make our future.

Centers and Institutes:

Over the past year, we have identified three areas of special focus and created centers or institutes to move them forward.

Water Institute: Fresh water is, perhaps, the most important long-term competitive resource of our region. Many universities do water research, but there is a niche need for an institute that addresses developing the economic opportunities of applied research in water access, quality and security. We have already attracted interest from the state and federal governments and from private sources in support of this effort.

Center for Energy Efficiency and Reliability: Energy is another resource that is critical for our region's ability to make the transition from big manufacturing to diversified technology-based business. When Bob Kramer joined us last year, we added the capacity to link our considerable faculty expertise in this area to regional economic development.

Center for Minorities and Women in Construction: Construction Management is a field that would benefit by becoming more inclusive of women and minorities. We see this rather dramatically as Purdue works to meet targets for minority and women contractors on its construction projects. As an educational institution with a construction management program (the only such program between Bradley [IL] University and [Purdue] West Lafayette), we are in a special position to make a difference. We can help develop a more diverse next generation of contractors.

Comprehensive Campaign:

Last October, we held the public kick-off of our $10.8 million drive to support our strategic initiatives. We had a banner year in 2003-04, raising $4.5 million. We raised enough money for student housing to begin the project, although we are still hoping to complete our $2 million goal.

We received a significant gift to help launch the Academic Learning Center.

We also received a commitment, through Purdue, from the Lilly Endowment for an additional $2 million for endowed faculty professorships, provided we raise matching funds. With the Lilly gift, we are at $6.7 million toward our campaign total.

To complete the plan, we must continue to raise money to support our academic programs. To date, we have been unsuccessful in hiring an academic affairs development officer, but I am hopeful we will fill the position this year.

Community Support:

Over the past year we have expanded and strengthened our community advisory boards.

Advisory boards provide the best possible structural link between Purdue Calumet and our community constituency. Board members are our most knowledgeable supporters. They can provide advice to our programs, job and internship opportunities for our students, advocacy to their communities, and resources to help us accomplish our goals.

Our advisory committee roster has grown from eight boards with 143 individuals to 20 boards with 228 individuals.

Last year, I established a Chancellor's Advisory Board to provide support and guidance for our strategic vision. These community leaders have been immensely helpful in keeping me focused on our future.

Clearly we made good progress on major projects in 2003-04. It was a year we can all be proud of. We are not ready to declare victory, though.

We have a number of challenges ahead of us, if we are to complete our strategic plan.

  • Enrollment: We need to get back on target, if we are to generate the resources we need for the unfunded portions of our plan. This means expanding our market reach and performing better in our current markets. We have devoted the resources to this effort, now we need to make it happen.
  • Launching the Institutes: We have identified three areas of focus that capitalize on our strengths and meet regional needs. This is the year to make them real and productive.
  • Faculty: Our strategic plan calls for increasing the percentage of full-time faculty. We have set aside funds to convert 20 continuing lecturer positions to faculty positions this year. Though we have not had a good track record in this area, efficient/effective searches will be required. While our strategic plan calls for receiving $1 million from the state for faculty positions, gaining that funding appears unlikely in the near future. So our search for a source of funds brings us back to enrollment growth.
  • ERP: (Enterprise Resource Planning) Purdue University is about to launch a system-wide integrated information management software project that is expected to occupy our attention for the next four years. When completed, it will pull together student information systems, financial systems and human resource systems on all Purdue campuses. This project will be immensely expensive, both in terms of dollars and staff time. Purdue West Lafayette has no choice but to move forward with this project, as its student information system has serious problems. We currently share financials and human resources, so our participation is not optional. Transitioning from our "single campus" Banner system to the "multi-campus" chosen system will be one of our biggest challenges. We have a major interest in the development of this system, and that interest will be represented in both planning and implementation. Individuals from our campus will participate in the system design and I will serve on the Executive Oversight Committee.
  • Emerging Technologies Tower: This coming year, the legislature will address the biennial budget, including the capital budget. We have made a request for an "Emerging Technologies Tower" to replace the Gyte Annex. This facility would permit us to upgrade the technology tools that are vital to teaching in many of our programs; it would also house our new technology-oriented institutes and centers. Since state finances are not good, the process for securing this project will not be easy. Nevertheless, it is important to our strategic plans, and we will pursue it vigorously.
  • Private funds: We have some immediate challenges here, including raising the Lilly Endowment matching funds. The Lilly program will match $400,000 for $100,000 raised toward a named professorship. The $500,000 total will be an endowment to support the faculty member who holds the professorship. This is a great opportunity that we must address this year. This is also the year in which we must complete fund-raising for student housing. There are many opportunities to name suites of rooms, and we will be seeking donors who are interested in doing so.
  • Academic Integrity: The quality of the educational experience depends on its being conducted with integrity. We know, nationally, that cheating is epidemic, that it engenders cynicism, and that it cheapens the value of our work. We have a Task Force on Academic Integrity that is at work to address this issue. We can expect to receive and discuss an Honor Code for Students and a set of recommendations for faculty on how to reduce opportunities for cheating. I am looking forward to these discussions and to developing a campus-wide commitment to a learning process that engenders honesty, engagement, enthusiasm, and commitment.
  • Governance: Campus-wide governance needs strengthening. Our faculty and staff governance groups are functioning well enough, although student governance fell apart last year. However, I am referring to University Forum, which is struggling to find its role. This issue became especially apparent in our recent campus exchange over the Senior Leadership Team's proposal to handle overflow parking. Without a well-functioning, representative group that has the confidence of its constituents, we resort to ad hoc consultation that stirs emotions and suspicions. The lesson I took away from the exchange is that we need an effective, commonly accepted forum to deal with matters of campus-wide concern. In its absence, we foster personal animosity and distrust.

All of these components are, of course, the means to loftier goals. As a regional public university we are here to serve the educational needs of northwest Indiana.

The most important thing we do is to produce educated citizens. We live in a county where 16 percent of the adults 25 and older have bachelor's degrees. The national average is about 25 percent. Educated citizens do more than improve the tax base (although they do that also). They are the social capital that builds community; they are the patrons of art and culture; they are the resource that attracts new growth; they are the citizens who can develop a more trustworthy civil society. We need all the college graduates we can produce.

The next most important thing we do is help create the conditions that will keep our graduates here in Northwest Indiana. We are in a position to provide the knowledge base and the talent to aid our region in its economic transition. We support economic development because it will grow jobs that are worthy of our graduates.

To do these things we aspire to become an extraordinary full-service regional university.

  • We must set high standards, and most importantly, help our students achieve them (Academic Integrity).
  • We must provide support for those who are struggling (Supplemental Instruction).
  • We must engage our students actively in the learning process (Undergraduate Research, Internships, Project employment)
  • We must recognize and retain the most talented (Honors Program, Best and Brightest Scholarships, Chancellors Scholars)

Our Plan for Success has focused on what students must do to remain in school and graduate. Our next horizon must focus on what we must do to make the educational experience for our students as exciting as it was for us. We have an extremely talented faculty and staff. Collectively, we have the creativity, the knowledge and the skills to realize this bright future.

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