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"Building Momentum toward the Next Level"

A State of Purdue University Calumet Address

delivered by Chancellor Howard Cohen
at the Faculty & Staff University Fall Convocation
August 19, 2006

Making strategic plan progress

Welcome back to the opening of another exciting year at Purdue University Calumet. 2006-07 is the final year of our strategic plan, "Plan for Success."

I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the past five years.

We set four ambitious goals:

  • (Goal 1) Improve student success
  • (Goal 2) Promote and support faculty and staff excellence
  • (Goal 3) Support a high performance learning environment
  • (Goal 4) Be a vital partner in the economic development of Northwest Indiana

We have made important progress on all four. Although we may not be ready to declare victory on any of them quite yet, success is within our grasp.

Investing in our commitments

We have made major investments in our commitments.

  • Over the course of this plan we have allocated or reallocated more than $8.6 million in our base budget to strategic priorities.
  • We have also invested another $4.4 million dollars in one-time funds toward the plan.

Some of our most important investments have been:

(GOAL 1)

  • Best and Brightest Scholarship Program
  • Reorganization of the University Division into the Student Achievement Center
  • New student orientation and freshmen seminars
  • Supplemental Instruction
  • Additional academic advisors
  • The Honors Program
  • More student employment
  • More than $1 million of gift funds in student housing.

(GOAL 2)

  • Additional new faculty positions, including:
  • Conversion of 17 continuous lecturers to faculty lines
  • Five named professorships
  • Greater attention to faculty development (through the Center for Instructional Excellence)
  • Faculty and staff salary increases

(GOAL 3)

  • Investments in IT infrastructure upgrades,
  • Creation of an Office of Institutional Research
  • New software and one time expenditures for...
    • OnePurdue
    • Gyte renovation
    • Campus signage, and
    • Student Union & Library student lounge

(GOAL 4)

  • Construction of the Academic Learning Center in Merrillville,
  • Staffing for the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana, and
  • Acquisition of a building off campus for the Entrepreneurship Center

These investments were possible because we had a clear plan and we had the discipline to follow it. They are transforming our campus and opening other opportunities for us - opportunities we did not contemplate when we began our strategic journey in 2001.

Let me highlight two:

1) Centers and Institutes

Academic Affairs has identified a number of key areas of study that bring together faculty research expertise with opportunities for student involvement that address significant economic development needs in Northwest Indiana.

The most developed of these efforts are:

  • the Water Institute,
  • the Energy Efficiency and Reliability Center,
  • the Johanna Briggs Institute for Evidence Based Nursing Practice,
  • the Center for Computational Analysis,
  • the Institute for Science and Technology Education

Collectively, they have brought more than $3.4 million to the campus in gifts, grants and contracts.

2) Expanded recruitment of international students

Academic Affairs has established an Office of International Programs.

Our focused attention on bringing additional international students to campus has resulted more than 200 students on campus this fall, notably from China, Saudi Arabia, India and Brazil. We now have a year-round ESL program up and running. If Northwest Indiana students cannot travel the world, at least we can bring parts of the world to Northwest Indiana.

I have every reason to believe that our campus will continue to grow in quality and reputation as we complete our strategic plan in this, its final year.

A strategic plan review committee will provide us with an assessment of what we have accomplished and what remains to be done.

More student-centered features on campus

Over our strategic planning period, we have undertaken to transform the physical look and feel of Purdue Calumet.

  • The University Village (student housing facility)
  • Parking Structure
  • Remodeled student lounge
  • Distributed computer clusters
  • New exterior and interior signage
  • Convenience store
  • Student Health Services Center

These are highly visible manifestations of our efforts to create a campus environment that is student-centered and student-friendly. They are, however, not the most important things we accomplished.

Improved campus learning environment

The most important things we did contributed directly to the campus learning environment. The center of action was the Faculty Senate.

In 2005-06, our faculty took several important steps toward strengthening the academic learning experience for our students.

  • We implemented the Honor Code, passed the previous year, and created an Honors Council to address breaches in academic integrity.
  • We approved a set of expectations on campus civility for students and faculty.

Both of these efforts send clear messages to our students-and to our region-that Purdue Calumet is committed to creating a serious learning environment.

Raising admission standards

But, by far, the most important new initiative to improve our academic quality was the raising of admission standards.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the faculty, the Committee on Selectivity and Admission, the Academic Affairs Committee and the Faculty Senate for taking on this issue and passing a workable, measured, increase in minimum student preparation.


As of this fall, we have established a combined SAT score of 770 (math and verbal) and/or a GPA of 2.0 (4.0 scale) as the minimum standards for regular admission.

Both the SAT and the GPA will rise in steps over the next 5 years. By the 2010-11 academic year, our minimum criteria for unconditional admission will be an SAT score of 900 and a GPA of 2.5. By that time, the State of Indiana will also require the Core 40 curriculum for regular admission.

As a consequence of raising our admission standards in this way this year, we expect that there are about 200 students per year who would have been admitted under the previous year's standards, but who are no longer eligible for unconditional admission. Our expectation is that these increases in minimum standards for unconditional admission will raise the Purdue Calumet average SAT score from 920 to about 1050. In short, we hope to bring our average SAT slightly above the average for Indiana.

In order to maintain access to higher education for those students who no longer quality for admission under our higher standards, we have established two collaborative programs with IVY Tech State College/The Community College of Indiana.

1) The Achievement Academy
The Achievement Academy is a 2-year preparatory program that includes remedial courses offered by Ivy Tech, support services offered by Purdue Calumet and limited, block-scheduled Purdue Calumet credit courses. Students who successfully complete the Achievement Academy will qualify for admission to one of our degree programs.

2) The Transitions Program
The Transitions Program is a 1-year developmental studies curriculum that includes Ivy Tech remedial courses, an academic skills course and a limited opportunity to take selected Purdue Calumet credit courses. Successful students in this program will transition into Year 2 of the Achievement Academy.

Both of these programs will be offered on our campus.

Raising admission standards signals our intention:

  • to make learning more challenging,
  • to improve our retention and graduation rates, and
  • to advance Purdue Calumet from a Tier 4 to a Tier 3 regional university according to U.S.News & World Report rankings.

Having better prepared students will contribute to a more vibrant intellectual atmosphere, but we must also do our part to take advantage of this development.

To state the obvious: raising admission standards alone will not achieve these goals. There are two major issues we must contend with as we engage our students in the learning process.

The hidden retention problem

First, we must address the hidden retention problem; attrition is simply not the straightforward problem of losing those students who are not prepared to do the work. We must address the attrition of our better students.

Increases in fall-to-fall retention correlate positively with increases in the SAT scores of entering students up to about an SAT of 1100. However, the trend does not continue upward for students who enter with SATs over 1100. These students tend to be well prepared and hardworking; we lose them because they also tend to transfer from Purdue Calumet to other institutions.


Of course, we expect to lose our share of students who wish to go into programs like Pharmacy or Veterinary Medicine, because we do not offer those degrees; however, our goal ought to be to make the decision to transfer from Purdue Calumet as difficult as possible for the good student.

So our challenge is to make the academic experience here so engaging, that students will want to stay with us through graduation.

The reality of working students

Second, as we find ways to ratchet up the engagement of our better prepared students, we must be creative in our thinking and planning. Whatever we do must take into account the reality of our students' working lives.

Purdue Calumet recently participated in a study (with Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech) of students' patterns of work and the consequences for their educations. (Working and Financial Aid Among College Students)

One thousand questionnaires were sent to students at each school.
318 replied from Purdue Calumet.

Based on these responses:

  • 35% of our students work full time
  • 48% work part time
  • Only 16% are not currently employed.

Of the responding students,

  • 74% work off campus
  • 77% work more than 20 hours/week

Interestingly, only 24% see work as having a negative impact on their school work, but of these respondents 33% reported that they believe their work will have no impact on the time they have planned to complete the degree.


  • 63% are working in jobs unrelated to their career plans, and
  • 45% would increase their credit-hour load if we could help them reduce their work hours.

Although this study, perhaps, is not definitive, it tends to confirm what many of us sense:

  • Work is a fact of life for our students, and
  • They mostly perceive it as a reality, rather than an obstacle or an opportunity.

Moreover, because of this reality, students tend to see stopping out of school or extending their time toward earning a degree as another acceptable fact of life, rather than a lost opportunity.

As we think about engaging students more fully in the learning process, we must think about ways of reducing the dichotomy between work and school. I believe that we have started to address these two significant challenges, and again, I want to express my appreciation to faculty governance for taking leadership in this area.

Experiential education as a requirement

The Faculty Senate is in the process of studying the idea of an Experiential Education requirement for every graduate.

Whether it be a clinical practicum, an internship, undergraduate research, or a senior design project, student engagement in learning that explicitly links education to career can be both a motivator to keep our students here at Purdue Calumet and, to the extent that these are paid experiences, a mechanism to help resolve the tensions between learning and working.

Purdue Calumet has been expanding paid opportunities for students to combine learning and working. We have invested in:

  • Supplemental instructors,
  • Computer lab consultants,
  • Departmental project employment, and
  • Internships at the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana

More such opportunities are on the horizon.

A robust experiential education requirement no doubt will be a continuous challenge for us. If we can do it well, it is certain to be attractive to students, and it could ultimately be the sustainable competitive advantage that moves Purdue Calumet to the next level.

The next level, in due time, will be the focus of our next strategic plan.

Plenty yet to do

As you know, Purdue President Martin Jischke has announced that he is stepping down at the end of June 2007, upon the completion of the current strategic plan and the Purdue capital campaign.

The Board of Trustees and the next President will define our future strategic efforts. Purdue Calumet will use the rest of this year-and next-to continue to make gains on our four strategic goals.

With guidance from the strategic plan review committee, we will focus on those areas of greatest importance and greatest need to build the momentum that will consolidate our efforts.

There is plenty to do. This will not be a "wait and see" transition. The things we are doing, today, next semester and next year will position us well for the future. I hope you are as excited as I am for the academic year to begin.

Thank you.

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